In July 1951 the US Congress authorized the construction of a nuclear-powered submarine, which was followed up by an announcement on 12 December 1951 that the submarine would be called Nautilus—the fourth U.S. Navy vessel officially so named.
Construction of Nautilus was made possible by the successful development of a nuclear propulsion plant by a group of scientists and engineers at the Naval Reactors Branch of the Atomic Energy Commission, under the leadership of Captain Hyman G. Rickover, USN.
Nautilus' keel was laid at General Dynamics' Electric Boat Division in Groton, Connecticut by President Harry Truman on June 14, 1952. After nearly 18 months of construction, Nautilus was launched on January 21, 1954 with First Lady Mamie Eisenhower breaking the traditional bottle of champagne across Nautilus' bow as she slid down the ways into the Thames River. Eight months later, on September 30, 1954, Nautilus became the first commissioned nuclear powered ship in the United States Navy.
|Nautilus after being launched|
Over the next several years Nautilus was used to investigate the effects of increased submerged speeds and endurance, shattering previous submerged speed and distance records.
On July 23, 1958 Nautilus set a course northward from Pearl Harbor Hawaii. She submerged in the Barrow Sea Valley 1 August and on 3 August, at 2315 (EDST) she became the first ship to reach the geographic North Pole. From the North Pole, she continued on and after 96 hours and 1830 miles under the ice, she surfaced northeast of Greenland, having completed the first successful voyage across the North Pole.
|Navigator's Report: Nautilus 90N|
In addition to normal deployments, over the next 20 years Nautilus participated in numerous exercises and evaluations to help the U.S. Navy and NATO develop effective ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) techniques and tactics.
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 - her last day underway. She was decommissioned on March 3, 1980 after a career spanning 25 years and over half a million miles steamed.
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.
On April 11, 1986, eighty-six years to the day after the birth of the United States Navy 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 an exciting, visible link between yesterday's Submarine Force and the Submarine Force of tomorrow.
|Nautilus at the Submarine Force Museum|