On this day (July 23), 1958, the American submarine "Nautilus" SSN 571, the first nuclear-powered submarine in the world, leaves the port of Pearl Harbor to try to be the first submersible to reach the North Pole sailing under the ice.
The USS Nautilus (SSN-571) was the the world's first operating nuclear-powered submarine and the first submarine to complete a submerged transit of the North Pole on August 3, 1958.
Conceptual design for the first nuclear submarine began in March 1950 as project SCB 64. Construction began in 1952 and the ship was launched in January 1954. Because her nuclear propulsion allowed her to stay submerged much longer than diesel-electric submarines, she broke many records in her first years of operation and traveled places she had previously they were beyond the limits of submarines. In operation, she revealed a number of limitations in her design and construction. This information was used to improve later submarines.
Nautilus was powered by the Subsea Thermal Reactor (STR), later redesignated the S2W , a pressurized water reactor produced for the United States Navy by Westinghouse Electric Corporation .
The Bettis Atomic Energy Laboratory, operated by Westinghouse, developed the basic reactor plant design used in Nautilus after being assigned on December 31, 1947 to design a nuclear power plant for a submarine.
Nuclear power had the crucial advantage in underwater propulsion because it is a zero-emission process that consumes no air.
Navigation below the Arctic ice cap was difficult. Above 85°N, both magnetic compasses as normal gyros become inaccurate. A special gyrocompass built by Sperry Rand was installed shortly before the trip. There was a risk that the sub would become disoriented under the ice and the crew would have to play "longitude roulette". Commander Anderson had considered using torpedoes to make a hole in the ice if the submarine needed to surface.
The most difficult part of the trip was in the Bering Strait . The ice extended up to 18m below sea level. During the initial attempt to traverse the Bering Strait, there was not enough space between the ice and the seafloor. During the second successful attempt to traverse the Bering Passage, the submarine passed through a known channel near Alaska (this was not the first option, as the submarine wanted to avoid detection). p>
The voyage under the ice cap was a major boost for the United States, as the Soviets had recently launched Sputnik, but did not have a nuclear submarine of their own. During the speech announcing the trip, the president mentioned that one day nuclear-cargo submarines could use that route for trade
This design is the basis for nearly all US nuclear-powered submarines and surface combatants, and was adapted by other countries for naval nuclear propulsion.
Out of curiosity, the Nautilus was decommissioned in 1980 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1982. The submarine has been preserved as a museum ship at the Library and Museum of the Submarine Force in Groton, Connecticut, where the ship receives about 250,000 visitors a year.