USS Nautilus Submarine Model
This handcrafted USS Nautilus model, in 1/150 scale, is painstakingly built by our skilled craftsmen with a wealth of detail. The USS Nautilus, SSN-571, is the world's first operational nuclear-powered submarine. She was the first vessel to complete a submerged transit beneath the North Pole on August 3, 1958. Because her nuclear propulsion allowed her to remain submerged for far longer than diesel-electric submarines, she broke many records in her first years of operation and was able to travel to locations previously beyond the limits of submarines.
Our wooden USS Nautilus model is an exact replica of the original, handcrafted with vigilance by master craftsmen. After it is sanded and puttied, skilled artists paint on the intricate details. Clear lacquer provides the finishing touch and long-lasting protection. Each ship model comes on a a display base with brass pedestals and a brass name plate.
USS Nautilus is the world's first operational nuclear-powered submarine. She was the first vessel to complete a submerged transit to the North Pole on 3 August 1958. 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 WWII, Nautilus was authorized in 1951 and launched in 1954. Because her nuclear propulsion allowed her to remain submerged far longer than diesel-electric submarines, she broke many records in her first years of operation, and traveled to locations previously beyond the limits of submarines. In operation, she revealed a number of limitations in her design and construction. This information was used to improve subsequent submarines.
Nautilus was decommissioned in 1980 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1982. She has been preserved as a museum of submarine history in Groton, Connecticut, where she receives some 250,000 visitors a year.
In July 1951 the United States Congress authorized the construction of a nuclear-powered submarine for the U.S. Navy, which was planned and personally supervised by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, known as the "Father of the Nuclear Navy." On 12 December 1951 the US Department of the Navy announced that the submarine would be called Nautilus—the fourth U.S. Navy vessel officially so named—and would carry the hull number SSN-571.
Nautilus's keel was laid at General Dynamics' Electric Boat Division in Groton, Connecticut by Harry S. Truman on 14 June 1952, and the ship was designed by John Burnham. She was christened on 21 January 1954 and launched into the Thames River, sponsored by Mamie Eisenhower. Nautilus was commissioned on 30 September 1954, under the command of Commander Eugene P. Wilkinson, USN.
Nautilus was powered by the S2W naval reactor, a pressurized water reactor produced for the US Navy by Westinghouse Electric Corporation. Argonne National Laboratory, together with Westinghouse, developed the basic reactor plant design used in Nautilus after being given the assignment on 31 December 1947 to design a nuclear power plant for a submarine. Nuclear power had the crucial advantage in submarine propulsion because it is a zero-emission process that consumes no air. The physics-critical experiments supporting this design were performed at Argonne. This design is the basis for nearly all of the US nuclear-powered submarine and surface combat ships, and was adapted by other countries for naval nuclear propulsion. The first actual prototype (for Nautilus) was constructed and tested by Argonne at the S1W facility in Idaho.
Following her commissioning, Nautilus remained dockside for further construction and testing. At 11 am on 17 January 1955 she put to sea for the first time and signaled her historic message: "Underway on nuclear power." On 10 May, she headed south for shakedown. Submerged throughout, she traveled 2,100 kilometers (1,100 nmi; 1,300 mi) from New London to San Juan, Puerto Rico and covered 2,223 km (1,200 nmi; 1,381 mi) in less than ninety hours. At the time, this was the longest submerged cruise by a submarine and at the highest sustained speed (for at least one hour) ever recorded.
USS Nautilus during her initial sea trials, 20 January 1955.
From 1955 to 1957, Nautilus continued to be used to investigate the effects of increased submerged speeds and endurance. The improvements rendered the progress made in anti-submarine warfare during the Second World War virtually obsolete. Radar and anti-submarine aircraft, which had proved crucial in defeating submarines during the War, proved ineffective against a vessel able to quickly move out of an area, change depth quickly and stay submerged for very long periods.
On 4 February 1957, Nautilus logged her 60,000th nautical mile (110,000 km; 69,000 mi, matching the endurance of her namesake, the fictional Nautilus described in Jules Verne's novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. In May, she departed for the Pacific Coast to participate in coastal exercises and the fleet exercise, operation "Home Run," which acquainted units of the Pacific Fleet with the capabilities of nuclear submarines.
Nautilus returned to New London, Connecticut, on 21 July and departed again on 19 August for her first voyage of 2,226 kilometers (1,202 nmi; 1,383 mi) under polar pack ice. Thereafter, she headed for the Eastern Atlantic to participate in NATO exercises and conduct a tour of various British and French ports where she was inspected by defense personnel of those countries. She arrived back at New London on 28 October, underwent upkeep, and then conducted coastal operations until the spring.
In response to the nuclear ICBM threat posed by Sputnik, President Eisenhower ordered the US Navy to attempt a submarine transit of the North Pole to gain credibility for the soon-to-come SLBM weapons system. On 25 April 1958, Nautilus was underway again for the West Coast, now commanded by Commander William R. Anderson, USN. Stopping at San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle, she began her history-making polar transit, operation "Sunshine", as she departed the latter port on 9 June. On 19 June she entered the Chukchi Sea, but was turned back by deep drift ice in those shallow waters. On 28 June she arrived at Pearl Harbor to await better ice conditions. By 23 July her wait was over, and she set a course northward. She submerged in the Barrow Sea Valley on 1 August and on 3 August, at 2315 she became the first watercraft to reach the geographic North Pole. The ability to navigate at extreme latitudes and without surfacing was enabled by the technology of the North American Aviation N6A-1 Inertial Navigation System, a naval modification of the N6A used in the Navaho cruise missile. (The N6A-1 had been installed on Nautilus and Skate after initial sea trials on the USS Compass Island in 1957.) From the North Pole, she continued on and after 96 hours and 1,590 nmi (2,940 km; 1,830 mi) under the ice, surfaced northeast of Greenland, having completed the first successful submerged voyage around the North Pole. The technical details of this mission were planned by scientists from the Naval Electronics Laboratory including Dr. Waldo Lyon who accompanied Nautilus as chief scientist and ice pilot.
Navigation beneath the arctic ice sheet was difficult. Above 85°N both magnetic compasses and normal gyrocompasses become inaccurate. A special gyrocompass built by Sperry Rand was installed shortly before the journey. There was a risk that the submarine would become disoriented beneath the ice and that the crew would have to play "longitude roulette". Commander Anderson had considered using torpedoes to blow a hole in the ice if the submarine needed to surface.
The most difficult part of the journey was in the Bering Strait. The ice extended as much as 60 feet below sea level. During the initial attempt to go through the Bering Strait, there was insufficient room between the ice and the sea bottom. During the second, successful attempt to pass through the Bering passage, the submarine passed through a known channel close to Alaska (this was not the first choice as the submarine wanted to avoid detection).
The trip beneath the ice cap was an important boost to America as the Soviets had recently launched Sputnik, but had no nuclear submarine of their own. During the address announcing the journey, the president mentioned that one day nuclear cargo submarines might use that route for trade.
Proceeding from Greenland to the Isle of Portland, England, she received the Presidential Unit Citation, the first ever issued in peace time, from American Ambassador J.H. Whitney, and then set a westerly course which put her into the Thames River estuary at New London 29 October. Captain Anderson would also be awarded the Legion of Merit by Eisenhower. For the remainder of the year Nautilus operated from her home port of New London.
Following fleet exercises in early 1959, Nautilus entered the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, for her first complete overhaul (28 May 1959 – 15 August 1960). Overhaul was followed by refresher training and on 24 October she departed New London for her first deployment with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea, returning to her home-port 16 December.
Nautilus operated in the Atlantic, conducting evaluation tests for ASW improvements, participating in NATO exercises and, during October 1962, in the naval quarantine of Cuba, until she headed east again for a two-month Mediterranean tour in August 1963. On her return she joined in fleet exercises until entering the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for her second overhaul 17 January 1964.
On 2 May 1966, Nautilus returned to her home-port to resume operations with the Atlantic Fleet, and at some point around that month, logged her 300,000th nautical mile (560,000 km; 350,000 mi) underway. For the next year and a quarter she conducted special operations for ComSubLant and then in August 1967, returned to Portsmouth, for another year's stay, following which she conducted exercises off the southeastern seaboard. She returned to New London in December 1968.
In the spring of 1979, Nautilus set out from Groton, Connecticut on her final voyage under the command of Richard A. Riddell. She reached Mare Island Naval Shipyard of Vallejo, California on 26 May 1979, her last day underway. She was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 3 March 1980.