Welcome Back, Nautilus

The Submarine Force Museum Association, adjacent to U.S. Navy Submarine Base, Groton, welcomed the old USS Nautilus (SSN-571) in from the Thames River over the weekend following a $36 million drydocking and restoration.

Laid down on 14 June 1952– making her hull now 70 years old– she was the first American nuclear-powered submarine when she was commissioned on 30 September 1954 and soon set out making and breaking records.

In this file photo taken Jan. 21, 1954, the nuclear-powered submarine USS Nautilus (SSN 571) is in the Thames River shortly after a christening ceremony.

Following 25 years of hard service during which she covered 300,000 nautical miles, she retired in 1980 and, following an unprecedented $4.7 million conversion that saw her reactor and still-classified components removed, from 1986 served as an exhibit at the Submarine Force Museum– one that allowed patrons to walk the decks of the only nuclear submarine open to the public.

“The unique museum ship continues to serve as a dramatic link in both Cold War-era history and the birth of the nuclear age,” notes DANFS.

To keep her shipshape, she was closed last year and moved next door to Naval Submarine Base New London in 2021 for dry-dock and refurbishment, her first since 2002. Structural maintenance, such as the ship’s wooden deck replacement, repairs to the vessel’s superstructure, and restorations to the ship’s hull, were performed to extend the vessel’s longevity.

Nautilus revolutionized not only submarine warfare, but all of naval warfare. The capability to operate virtually indefinitely without the need to surface to run diesel engines or recharge batteries gave it an immense tactical advantage,” said Naval History and Heritage Command’s (NHHC) Director, RADM Samuel Cox last week. “Today we forget the existential nature of the Cold War, which drove the incredible pace at which Nautilus was conceived, designed, and built, truly a testament to American ingenuity. NHHC is proud to deliver this vessel back to the public and give future generations an opportunity to see it.”

The full ceremony 1.5 hours of the re-opening of USS Nautilus (SSN-571):

For more details on Nautilus, browse the NHHC.

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