This Day in Tech History

On This Day . . .

From 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to the Far Reaches of Space


March 3, 1980: Nautilus Decommissioined

The USS Nautilus, one of the most famous vessels in US history, is decommissioned on this day in 1980 after over Nautilus325 years of service. The ship is converted into a museum ship and returned to the Thames River in Gorton CT where it was first launched.


The Nautilus was constructed under the direction of Navy Captain Hyman Rickover (eventually Admiral Rickover) a brilliant engineer regarded as a fanatic by his detractors. Consider his 1986 obituary from the New York Times, “He attacked Naval bureaucracy, ignored red tape, lacerated those he considered stupid, bullied subordinates and assailed the country’s educational system.”

Engineer Hyman Rickover with Model of Nuclear Submarine

Rickover boards the Nautilus in NY Harbor

Rickover boards the Nautilus in NY Harbor




*                    *                    *

A classic example of his maneuvering.

The Atomic Energy Commission was persuaded to create a Reactor Development Division and within it a Naval Reactors Branch. To head the branch it came up with Captain Rickover.”

Wearing both hats, the captain sometimes wrote letters to himself asking for certain things; he would then answer the letters in the affirmative. Thus there was virtually always agreement between the Navy and the Atomic Energy Commission.


He was responsible for the design and production of the world’s first nuclear powered engines. He also delivered the sub years ahead of schedule.

The Nautilus was launched into the Thames River in January of 1954 and commissioned September 30, 1954. Displacing 3,180 tons it was larger than preceding subs and could remain submerged for almost unlimited periods because the atomic engine needed no air and only a small quantity of nuclear fuel. The reactor produced steam that drove propulsion turbines.


Early on the USS Nautilus broke numerous records. In May of 1955, the submarine headed south sailing from New London to Puerto Rico, the transit was the longest ever by a submerged submarine and achieved the highest sustained submerged speed. In 1958 she recorded her famous voyage under the North Pole. In the spring of 1966, she again entered the record books when she logged her 300,000th mile underway.


The Nautilus was decommissioned on this day in 1980 and two years later, in recognition of the submarine’s unique place in history, it was designated a National Historic Landmark. With this status in place, Nautilus was converted to a museum ship and returned to Groton. It is now part of the US Sub Force Museum.



Other Famous Nautilus’

Star Trek – The USS Nautilus (NCC-31910) was a Federation Miranda-class starship that was in service with Starfleet in the late 24th century. The Nautilus fought in the Dominion War. In late 2374 she saw action at the First Battle of Chin’toka where she, along with the USS Hood and USS Tian An Men, assisted the USS Defiant in destroying the orbital weapon platforms’ shared power generator. (DS9: “Tears of the Prophets”)


20-000-Leagues-Under-The-Sea-james-mason-31507549-500-745Captain Nemo and “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”


Walt Disney


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