The first nuclear submarine, USS Nautilus (SSN 571), departed New London, Conn., on 19 August 1957 for her first voyage under the Arctic ice pack. The 1,383-mile journey was of great strategic significance, as the frozen northern oceans had previously been a “no mans’ land” since diesel-electric boats could not travel freely under ice. Her second voyage to the Arctic the following year produced even more historic results.
On 25 April 1958 she departed New London, Conn., for the West Coast, under the guise of a Pacific deployment. In reality she was embarking upon Operation Sunshine, the first attempt to cross the North Pole by ship. Departing Seattle, Washington, on 9 June, the submarine entered the Chukchi Sea on 19 June but was turned back by deep draft ice in those shallow waters. On 28 June she arrived at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to await better ice conditions. By 23 July her wait was over and Nautilus set a course northward, submerging in the Barrow Sea Valley on 1 August. On 3 August, at 2315 (EDST), Nautilus became the first ship to reach the geographic North Pole. After 96 hours and 1,830 miles under the ice, she surfaced northeast of Greenland, having completed the first successful voyage across the North Pole.