The world’s first nuclear-powered submarine will reopen to the public this Friday, the Navy announced, one year after closing for a $36 million refurbishment.
The USS Nautilus, a history-making boat and current exhibit at the Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton, Connecticut, had been undergoing renovations at the state’s Naval Submarine Base New London, where the “ship’s wooden deck replacement, repairs to the vessel’s superstructure, and restorations to the ship’s hull” were performed, the release said.
Nautilus also received a new paint job, lighting and electrical upgrades and updates to staff access points, according to Naval History and Heritage Command.
A prominent piece of the Navy’s history, the Nautilus, which shares its name with the fictional submarine in Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, was commissioned in 1954. It was not only the world’s first nuclear-powered sub, but in 1958, the Nautilus also became the first submarine to reach the North Pole.
“Nautilus revolutionized not only submarine warfare, but all of naval warfare,” Samuel Cox, an NHHC director and curator, said in the release. “The capability to operate virtually indefinitely without need to surface to run [d]iesel engines or recharge batteries gave it an immense tactical advantage.
“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,” Cox continued. “NHHC is proud to deliver this vessel back to the public and give future generations an opportunity to see it.”
Among its many noteworthy voyages, the Nautilus participated in the 1962 quarantine of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The boat was decommissioned in 1980 after 26 years of service. In total, it completed 2,500 dives and traveled 510,000 miles — all fueled by nuclear power. Two years later it would become a National Historic Landmark, and soon after, the official ship for the state of Connecticut.
The Submarine Force Museum is scheduled to host a ceremony on Friday to commemorate the public reopening of the vessel.
“You will not be disappointed,” Lt. Cmdr. Derek Sutton, the museum’s director, told Stars and Stripes. “It is an outstanding experience for everyone. For those with mobility limitations or issues with tight spaces (or those that don’t want to brave the rain on a bad day), we have a fully virtual tour available in the museum that allows anyone to virtually walk through all of the normally accessible spaces.”
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media