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Mobilis in Mobile * History of the USS Nautilus (SSN-571). World’s first operational nuclear-powered submarine. Launched January 21, 1954. First vessel to complete a submerged transit across the North Pole.

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mobilis in mobile history of the uss nautilus ssn 571

Mobilis in Mobile*History of the USS Nautilus (SSN-571)

World’s first operational nuclear-powered submarine.

Launched January 21, 1954.

First vessel to complete a submerged transit across the North Pole.

On January 17, 1955, at 11 am EST, NAUTILUS' first Commanding Officer, Commander Eugene P. Wilkinson, ordered all lines cast off and signaled the memorable and historic message,

"Underway On Nuclear Power"

Over the next several years, NAUTILUS shattered all submerged speed and distance records.

* Moving in a moving thing

20 000 leagues comparison
20,000 Leagues Comparison
  • Verne’s “marine league” equals 2.16 miles.
  • 20,000 “marine” leagues under the sea would translate to 43,200 miles.
  • 20,000 leagues in today’s conversion equals 60,000 miles.
  • On February 4, 1957, USS NAUTILUS logged her 60,000th mile.
accomplished the impossible
“Accomplished the impossible”
  • On July 23, 1958, NAUTILUS departed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii under top secret orders to conduct "Operation Sunshine," the first crossing of the north pole by a ship.
  • At 11:15 pm on August 3, 1958, NAUTILUS' second Commanding Officer, Commander William R. Anderson, USN, announced to his crew "For the world, Our Country, and the Navy - the North Pole."
  • With 116 men aboard, NAUTILUS had accomplished the "impossible," reaching the geographic North Pole--90 degrees north.
  • After 96 hours and 1,830 miles submerged under the ice, USS NAUTILUS surfaced in the Greenland Sea, on August 5, 1958.
congratulations from a frenchman
Congratulations from a Frenchman
  • On August 11, 1958, Charles de Gaulle sent President Eisenhower the following message:
    • “Thanks to the United States Navy, the ‘Nautilus’, whose expected exploits generations of Frenchmen had learned about in advance, has accomplished its destiny. Allow me to tell you how delighted I am at this exemplary success. It is fine and good that a great country of liberty should give so brilliantly the proof of inventiveness and courage.”

Commander Anderson was flown from Iceland to Washington, D.C., where he was presented the Legion of Merit by President Eisenhower.

  • Upon Commander Anderson's return to NAUTILUS, she proceeded to Portland, England where Ambassador John Hay Whitney presented the first Presidential Unit Citation ever issued in peacetime.

My Brother-in-Law’s Mother knew one of the crew members aboard the USS Nautilus and sent her a letter commemorating the historic event.

  • Note the postmark is the exact date and time the USS Nautilus was at the North Pole.
other records of the first and finest
Other Records of the “First and Finest”
  • Over the next six years, NAUTILUS participated in several fleet exercises while traveling over 200,000 miles.
  • In the spring of 1966, she logged her 300,000th mile.
  • During the following 12 years, NAUTILUS was involved in a variety of developmental testing programs while continuing to serve alongside many of the more modern nuclear powered submarines she had preceded.
journey s end
Journey’s end
  • In the spring of 1979, NAUTILUS set out from Groton, Connecticut on her final voyage. She reached Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, California on May 26, 1979.
  • She was decommissioned on March 3, 1980 after a career spanning 25 years, 2,507 dives, and 513,550 miles.
  • In recognition of her pioneering role in the practical use of nuclear power, NAUTILUS was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior on May 20, 1982.
  • Following an extensive historic ship conversion at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, NAUTILUS was towed to Groton, Connecticut arriving on July 6, 1985.
final resting place
Final Resting Place
  • On April 11, 1986, eighty-six years to the day after the birth of the Submarine Force, Historic Ship NAUTILUS, joined by the Submarine Force Museum, opened to the public as the first and finest exhibit of its kind in the world, providing a visible link between yesterday's Submarine Force and the Submarine Force of tomorrow.

Summer Vacation

July 2004

A great place to visit!


Onboard the USS Nautilus is a first edition, signed 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

  • It is mounted behind glass in the wall of the main corridor.
  • It was given to the US Navy by Verne’s great grandson.

Submarine Force Museum

Groton, Conn.

Main Hallway

comparison of the two nautilus
Comparison of the Two Nautilus’



1507 tons


70 m

8 m

7.2 m

50 mph

Floodable tanks

& Hydroplane

52,490 ft

Ram/electric current

20 or so

US Navy


4092 tons


97.5 m (320 ft)

8.5 m (28 ft)

7.9 m (26 ft)

28.8 mph

Floodable tanks

& Hydroplane

700 ft

6 torpedo tubes





Hull design




Top Speed

Depth Control

Diving Depth



  • You can take a virtual tour of the USS Nautilus at:
  • Other Web sites:
  • Book References:
    • Naval Institute Press edition of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
      • (thanks to Walter James Miller and Rick Walter)
    • Livre de Poche paperback of Verne's original French
      • (thanks to Rick Walter)