Sunday, January 01, 2006

Nautilus museum gives glimpse into submarine history

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Norwich Bulletin
By Carol Phelps
September 22, 2005

The state of Connecticut has many symbols. Among theses symbols are State Hero Nathan Hale, State Heroine Prudence Crandall, and Leo Connellan, the State Poet Laureate. The State Ship is the USS Nautilus (SSN-571), which was the world's first nuclear powered submarine. It is also a National Historic Landmark and is permanently situated next to the Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton.

The sub was built at Electric Boat Division, General Dynamics Corporation in Groton, Ct.Her keel was laid in 1952, and she was launched and commissioned in 1954.

The Nautilus is credited with breaking many records. Upon leaving the dock at Groton, Ct., she made the longest submerged journey in history to Puerto Rico. She was also the first ship to reach the North Pole.

In 1980 the Nautilus was decommissioned and converted to a floating museum on the Thames River neighboring the submarine base in Groton. The base was the first military submarine facility in 1915, and thanks to the recent efforts of the state and local supporters, the submarine base will continue to stay open.

Six ships of the United States Navy have been named USS Nautilus. The name is derived from a Greek word which means sailor or ship.

The first Nautilus was a schooner that served in the War of 1812, the second was another schooner that served in the Mexican-American War, the third served in World War I. The fourth Nautilus was a Patrol Boat commissioned in 1917. The fifth,(SS-168 was one of the largest submarines ever built for the Navy during World War II. And of course the sixth was the (SSN-571), the first nuclear powered submarine in the world.

Over the century, the submarine has changed its form many times.A bell like structure called Bushnell's turtle, was built in 1777 in West Saybrook. It appeared to defy any kind of buoyancy.

It was used in the Revolutionary War to destroy British ships and was the first submersible ever used in military conflict. A cutaway model of it is on display at the museum.

A large submarine hangs from the ceiling of the museum giving an inside look of its compartments. There are two mini theaters to view films of submarines past and present.

Visitors can look through operating periscopes and on occasion see a submarine going by on the river.

The Nautilus is open to the public. You can walk through selected spaces and peek in through glass enclosed sleeping quarters, kitchen, dining area and control room.

You'll get a feel for what it must have been like to be in close quarters during long voyages under the sea. In contrast, today's submarines are cities beneath the sea and a forceful deterrent to any would be enemy.

People are fascinated with submarines and a visit to the museum will answer some of its mysteries.

Admission to the museum is free. It is handicapped accessible. A unique gift shop offers a variety of nautical items.

For more information, call 1-800-343-0079 or visit the web at:

www.ussnautilus.org.living@norwichbulletin.com.


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