May 10

USS Triton (SSN-586) and her Historic Voyage, ending May 10, 1960

Friday, May 10, 2019 1:00 AM

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On a brisk February day in 1960, the USS Triton (SSN-586) sailed out of New London, Connecticut on the Thames River down to Long Island Sound and into the Atlantic Ocean on what the crew presumed to be its usual patrol. Soon thereafter, they started to notice changes in direction and the suspense grew about where they were headed.

Two days later, around 4:00pm, Captain Edward L. Beach, Jr, made his announcement on the general announcing microphone in the control room.

 

Captain "Ned" Beach informs his crew of the Navy's plan for the USS Triton to circumnavigate the world submerged two days after the mission started

Captain “Ned” Beach informs his crew of the Navy’s plan for the USS Triton to circumnavigate the world submerged two days after the mission started. (U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive)

“Men,” He said, “I know you’ve all been waiting to hear what this cruise is all about and why we’re still all headed southeast. A number of you may have guessed before that something special is taking place. The amount of provisions we have loaded aboard and the special preparations we’ve had to make have been a tip-off. I know also that you can guess why we have had to keep the real objectives of this cruise concealed until we were well on our way. Now, at last, I can tell you that we are going on the voyage which all submariners have dreamed of ever since they possessed the means of doing so. We have the ship and we have the crew. We are going to go around the world, nonstop. And we’re going to do it entirely submerged.” There was absolute silence as he continued, “I know you all realize what a test this is going to be of our new ship, and of ourselves,” he said. “No ship in the world, so far as I know, has ever made a voyage of such magnitude at the speed of advance which we shall have to maintain. There are many missions to accomplish. We have a regular schedule to meet. There are a lot of experiments to perform, a lot of readings to make, a lot of recordings and data to take. When we get back to the United States, we will be expected to turn in the most complete set of scientific data ever taken by a submarine.”

Pausing, he continued, “We, in our ship are here and now endeavoring to accomplish something of importance for the glory of our country and our Navy. From now on we will be bound together by a shared experience which will be with us the rest of our lives. Little though anyone hearing these words will appreciate it now, if we can make this cruise successfully we will carry from now on the knowledge of having recorded one of history’s great voyages…”

In his book, Around the World Submerged: the Voyage of the Triton, Captain Edward L. Beach, Jr. explains that “Despite all the arguments in favor of doing the trip earlier, there were sound technical reasons why a submerged circumnavigation of the world was not attempted until Triton was built, and the most important of these, stated simply, was the factor of dependability. Our two main power plants were completely separate and independent. No conceivable casualty in one could affect the other . . .” “Another factor was adequate provisions for a long voyage. Triton’s size gave her a tremendous amount of room for storage. And, of course, it was her great carrying capacity which made our ship the ideal vehicle for the scientific aspects of our mission.”

Drawing showing contrast in sizes of atomic submarines

Drawing released by General Dynamic Corporation’s Electric Boat Division shows contrast in sizes of atomic submarines, featuring the USS Triton (SSRN-586), world’s largest sub., circa 1958.

When the voyage concluded on May 10, 1960, Captain Beach was lifted from his boat off the coast of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, by a Marine helicopter headed for the White House where he was presented with The Legion of Merit by President Eisenhower.

Captain Beach being retrieved by a Marine helicopter from the USS Triton

Captain Beach on his way to the White House at the end of the voyage.

The USS Triton (SSN-586), the largest submarine in the world at that time had followed Magellan’s course around the world.

Captain Edward L. Beach plotting the course of the USS Triton

The Captain plots his course.

Captain Edward L. Beach, Jr. was one of the Naval Institute’s best loved authors, known for his bestselling novel, Run Silent, Run Deep which was made into a movie starring Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster in 1958.