5th August 1958:-USS Nautilus Goes Under North Pole

USS Nautilus (SSN-571) is the world’s first operational nuclear-powered submarine. She was also the first vessel to complete a submerged transit across the North Pole. Namesake of the submarine in Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and named after another USS Nautilus (SS-168) that served with distinction in World War II, Nautilus was authorized in 1951 and launched in 1954.


The USS Nautilus docked at the US Submarine Force Museum and Library

Presidential Unit Citation
For outstanding achievement in completing the first voyage in history across the top of the world, by cruising under the Arctic ice cap from the Bering Strait to the Greenland Sea.
During the period 22 July 1958 to 5 August 1958, U.S.S. NAUTILUS, the world’s first atomic powered ship, added to her list of historic achievements by crossing the Arctic Ocean from the Bering Sea to the Greenland Sea, passing submerged beneath the geographic North Pole. This voyage opens the possibility of a new commercial seaway, a Northwest Passage, between the major oceans of the world. Nuclear powered cargo submarines may, in the future, use this route to the advantage of world trade.
The skill, professional competency and courage of the officers and crew of NAUTILUS were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Armed Forces of the United States and the pioneering spirit which has always characterized our country.
To commemorate the first submerged voyage under the North Pole, all members of the Nautilus crew who made the voyage are authorized to wear their Presidential Unit Citation ribbon with a special clasp in the form of a gold block letter N. (see image above).


President Harry S. Truman authenticates the keel of the Nautilus (SSN-571) at her keel laying at the Electric Boat Co., Groton, Conn. on 14 June 1952.

Learn more about this submarine in Wikipedia

This U.S. Navy newsreel shows Commander William Anderson of the nuclear powered submarine Nautilus, being greeted at the White House by President Eisenhower.

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12 Responses to 5th August 1958:-USS Nautilus Goes Under North Pole

  1. malc50 says:

    Thanks Mags. I remember when this was a current news item. It doesn’t seem like 53 years ago! Cheers.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Mal,
      Your right time does fly by us fast. But thanks to a few people these things will not be forgotten, and I was more than surprised to find some great video’s of this submarine on YouTube, some very smart person made sure it all stayed documented.

  2. Rebekah says:

    Very interesting reading! I knew nothing about this … I was born 1955 so obviously I don’t remember 🙂

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Rebekah,
      I actually read about this at school, if I remember correctly we were doing something on the North Pole, and this came up at the library. I don’t remember all the details around it, but it is in some books on the North Pole, that much I do know. 😀

  3. Barbara Rodgers says:

    Longitude roulette! 🙂 Groton is my hometown – I visited the Nautilus once as a chaperone on my son’s school field trip, a long time ago. It felt so close inside, I cannot imagine anyone not getting claustrophobia very quickly… Must take a special kind of sailor to withstand it.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Barbara,
      I would love to have a look inside a sub, I have never had the opportunity. I am told there is not a lot of room inside, it would take a special type of person to be able to stay inside one for long periods.

  4. travelrat says:

    And, I thought the first sub under the North Pole was commanded by Rock Hudson, in ‘Ice Station Zebra’!

    (For a Navy officer, he sure has a poor grip on longitude … or, more likely, he’s not explaining it very well)

    • magsx2 says:

      HI travelrat,
      You may be right about Rock Hudson. 🙂
      I think he was having a bit of a joke about the longitude roulette, it would of been good to hear a bit more. 😀

  5. Selma says:

    An incredible moment in history. I admire those men on submarines. There is one you can go in at the Maritime Museum in Sydney and really, you get a bit claustrophobic in there. I don’t know how they do it for long periods of time. Thanks for a great post!

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Selma,
      The Maritime Museum here in Brisbane is also very interesting, but unfortunately no submarine, we have a Navy ship though, that my Husband explained every little part to me. 🙂 (He’s ex-navy)
      I agree an incredible moment in history.

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