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TechnoTourist’s Engineering Expeditions

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The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

Posted September 03, 2009 5:01 PM by Steve Melito

Located on the Thames River in Groton, Connecticut, the Submarine Force Library & Museum bills itself as "the world's finest collection" of submarine-related materials. As the only submarine museum operated by the U.S. Navy, this fantastic facility is home to 33,000 submarine artifacts, 30,000 photographs, 20,000 documents, and one nuclear-powered submarine.

When TechnoTourist visited the Submarine Force Library & Museum last week, the younger members of our party were less interested in the library and more interested in the museum. Specifically, they were drawn to the dark hulking shape of the USS Nautilus (SSN 571), America's first nuclear-powered submarine. It was easy enough to understand why.

About the Nautilus

Now a floating museum, the USS Nautilus first set sail on January 17, 1955. Later, the submarine became the first vessel to make a submerged transit across the North Pole. Powered by a S2W pressurized water reactor, the 320-foot long ship pushed the limits of speed and endurance. On February 4, 1957, she logged her 60,000th nautical mile, a feat which matched the achievement of the fictional Nautilus described in Jules Verne's 1870 novel, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.

Aboard the Nautilus

After crossing a parking lot, a walkway, and some railroad tracks, TechnoTourist boarded the USS Nautilus and descended into the belly of the beast. This floating museum isn't handicap-accessible, and navigating its narrow corridors isn't for the faint of heart. The ship's lighting and use of glass partitions made photography difficult, but here are some pictures from our trip.

Crew's Quarters

The crew's quarters were, in a word, cramped. As you can (hopefully) tell from this picture, the bunk beds are close and the sink and mirror are even closer.

Navigation Center

Photographing the navigation center was even more challenging, and the only picture of any quality is of this plaque.

Here, to the best of my ability, is what I think it says.

"The navigational equipment assisted the navigator in determining the geographical location of the ship. The installed systems included a radio direction finder set – AN/BRD-6B, a LORAN C Receiver Set – AN/WPN-4, and a LORAN A Receiver Set – AN/ (model number illegible). Additional special equipment such as an inertial navigation system was installed based on mission demands.

The quartermaster of the watch also maintained a manual plot on the MK-19 plotter as a backup to the more modern electronic navigational means. Also contained within the area is the main induction fan and the ship's low pressure blower, a two-speed rotary fan that was used to both ventilate the ship and blow air into the ship's main ballast tanks."

(After) Life Support

This final picture isn't meant to mix religion with engineering.

But if you're wondering why the mannequin chaplain looks like he's about to go scuba diving, it's because he's wearing an emergency air breathing (EAB) apparatus. If breathable air aboard the USS Nautilus was in short supply, crew members could literally plug an air hose into an EAB manifold.

As for the "afterlife support", the chaplain aboard the USS Nautilus wasn't actually a member of the clergy. Space aboard the Nautilus was so scarce that submariners had to fill this role themselves.

Resources:

http://www.ussnautilus.org/aboutus.shtml

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Nautilus_%28SSN-571%29

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#1

Re: The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

09/03/2009 10:52 PM

Wonderful subject. Never thought of it before.

Was it actually underwater for 2 years?

Last I knew 6 months was about maximum due to morale and food.

Are Nuclear Powered and Nuclear Weapon loaded submarines still roaming around out in the oceans with unreliable communications links for fire orders, leaving Nuke Subs in control of our destinies?

Is the Eastern Grid really run to 76 hertz in bursts for Extra Long Wave communications with these Subs?

Many Subs are considered to have "unlimited" range.

The Russian Alfa is reported to have a submerged speed of 42 knots, unlimited range and carried 6 conventional or nuclear torpedoes.

The George Washington launched in 1959 carried 16 Polaris missiles, and would do 30 and a half knots submerged, with 6 torpedo tubes, and was a formidable craft at the time, and really probably to this day.

Though Nautilus of launch in January of 1954 was the world's first nuclear-powered Sub, that is apparently her major distinction.

All my siblings are doing better than me, so being first is not necessarily any great advantage. There is the Ohio with 24 trident missiles launched in 1979, put under Stategic Air Command control.

Oh,well, I do wonder what subs are left these days wandering around out there in the oceans.

What really are they doing out there?

What sort of nuclear missiles are they ready to launch?

Who really tells them what to do?

Not that it is particularly helpful that I think about such things, but I do.

P.S. Some of this post is drawn from Submarines of the World by Robert Jackson, 2000 Barnes & Noble Books. The notes on Extra Long Wave Communications techniques come from communications on CR4 with some who apparently know what is going on.

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Re: The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

09/04/2009 8:08 AM

That is a bummer that the pictures were so difficult to take. Thanks for the article, Moose. You have inspired me to check this out for myself.

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#3

Re: The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

09/04/2009 11:48 AM

I visited the museum about 10 years ago. It's a pretty extensive history of submarines and submariners, and is great place to visit if you're at all interested in engineering.

I do remember being disappointed during the Nautilus tour that everything aft of the control room was off-limits, the doors aft were actually welded shut, for security reasons.

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Re: The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

09/05/2009 12:14 AM

I was aboard an ASW Aircraft Carrier in the late 60 while conducting an exercise with the Nautilus. She had a new skipper and he tried to be cute by slipping under the carrier while we were tracking her with Grumman Trackers and Helos.

She collided with the carrier keel and damaged the sail, but not the hull. She came to the surface about a mile to starboard while we took photos of the damage and removed one crewman with an injured leg.

One plane took the undeveloped photos to Norfolk for the Admirals to see. By the time they landed in Norfolk, the news reports already had the story on the wires.

Short career for on Captain. Not long after that, our new Skipper ran our Carrier aground in Roosevelt Roads, PR. He was relived before midnight of that fateful day. Last we heard, he was awarded the job of, " Naval Attache to Luxemburg"

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Re: The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

09/05/2009 6:29 AM

I was on a Jersey Island (UK) ferry from Weymouth in the summer of 1957(I believe it was '57) and we passed the Nautilus close by. Quite a sight for an 11 year old at the time.

OHMIGOD, you all know how old I am now, SCHUCKS!!!!

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#6
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Re: The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

09/05/2009 11:49 AM

Andy

Yer one year older than I am.......

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Re: The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

09/05/2009 12:30 PM

Welcome!

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Re: The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

09/06/2009 3:58 PM

One submarine...?
It's got one submarine??
"the world's finest collection of submarine-related materials."
You're havin a Steffi graff
Try this place...
Del

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#9
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Re: The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

09/08/2009 7:41 AM

This is the only location that has a "Nuclear" Submarine on display.

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Re: The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

09/08/2009 7:46 AM

While working at Electric Boat a few years ago, I was asked to assist the museum in some maintenence on the Nautilus back in the engineroom. The engineroom is actually setup to have visitors walk through but from what I was told is that there is some equipment that is still classified (surprising!!). Therefore, the general public is not allowed back aft yet.

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#11

Re: The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

09/08/2009 12:09 PM

If you've never taken a tour of a WWII diesel sub, you should. Any one who went to war in one of those is a LOT braver than I am.

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Re: The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

09/08/2009 12:44 PM

I had the luck to serve a few days on HMS Andrew, while in the Pacific region, around 1968 I think. She was ordered near the end of the War laid down right at the end of WW2....so she was a WW2 "style" boat, but did not actually serve in WW2.....

To quote from the Wiki entry:-

HMS Andrew made several claims to submarine history:

  • she was the oldest submarine of the Amphion class in service
  • she was the last UK submarine to carry a deck gun
  • she was the last submarine designed during the Second World War remaining in service
  • she was the first submarine to cross the Atlantic submerged using the "snort", in June 1953. The 2,500-nautical-mile (4,600 km), 15 day trip from Bermuda to England set a new world record for continuous underwater operation

Film career

HMS Andrew was used in the 1959 film On the Beach, playing the part of the fictional USS Sawfish. The U.S. Navy did not cooperate in the production of the film, so Andrew was used to represent the nuclear-powered submarine.

You can read the complete entry at:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Andrew_%28P423%29

So I was "Andrew", on the (HMS) "Andrew" and in the "Andrew"(Pusser or Navy).....probably not the only one ever.....but Andrew was not a popular first name in the UK until after Prince Andrew was born in1961....it seemed fun at the time anyway!!

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Re: The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

09/08/2009 2:37 PM

The under-ice transit (Operation Sunshine) only took about 4 days. As the first of its kind, the Nautilus was run through months of tests, with months of refits to make changes based on "lessons learned" from the tests. That took nearly 2 years. I don't believe the Nautilus ever submerged for more than about 7-10 days at a time. Modern subs typically limit submergence time to 60-80 days, primarily because of mission requirements. Even so, they will often come up to periscope depth to ventilate the ship, circulating fresh air and trying in vain to get rid of the stench of 120 bodies crammed into a tin can.

Submarine communications have never been a significant issue, at least in the US fleet, and have continued to improve over the years. I had never heard the 76 Hz grid theory, though. It gave me a good laugh. As a reality check, 76 Hz is 127% of normal grid frequency in the US, and most turbine overspeed trips are set at or below 110% (66 Hz). Also, ELF is 3-30 Hz. If anything, we'd have to drop the frequency to make it work.

Your speed on the Alfa is a pretty good number. The bad news at the time was that the Alfa was faster than any western submarine. The good news was that it made so much noise at that speed you could literally hear it from 100+ miles away on passive sonar. The appearance of the Alfa in the late 70's set off a panic in western navies, because it could outrun every torpedo in the arsenal. Although the weapon was marginally faster, it would run out of fuel before it closed the gap to make a kill. A massive program to develop an effective weapon was quickly initiated. The Mk-48 ADCAP may have been the fastest peacetime weapon system deployment in US history. By the way, the Alfa has 6 torpedo tubes, but carries ~20 weapons.

Lastly, I can tell you from personal experience that no Washington class boomer ever came close to 30kts. As with all missile subs, they were designed for stealth, not speed. They felt like they would shake apart at significantly lower speed.

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#14
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Re: The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

09/08/2009 4:00 PM

Dear Guest, Thank you for your post. Not sure what to think about the use of the Grid for communications with the Subs. It has been years now since someone on CR4 wrote of this, and possibly my memory was somehow either incorrect, or the information was flawed as given in the first place. As I remember it seemed as if I had gotten deep into the bowels of CR4 when this bit was written of, by someone.

I now do not grasp fully what communications equipment is current for sub communications. I did note some recent bit about long lines (antenna) being deployed for internet reception, ending at a floating buoy. Any further insight you may be able to properly provide would be interesting. I would imagine that there is an amount of redundancy. In any case I do wonder if these subs are ever actually completely out of the reach communications techniques.

My current interest in this area is in reports of long voyage experiments of 6 months or more supposedly being conducted for application of lessons learned to anticipated missions to Mars.

I also have an interest in the use of personality type profile testing and how that is applied by Captains to crew composition.

From what I can tell the missions of the US Sub fleet have changed somewhat since the supposed end of The Cold War, and they are mostly used for covert operations when it may for one reason or another make sense to use them to insert Seals.

Whenever I hear of Aircraft Carriers being stationed in a particular region I assume, though not mentioned, that a sub is also sent along.

If you may say, is that realistic?

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#15
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Re: The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

09/09/2009 6:58 AM

As of right now Trident submarines can recieve what is called Extra Long Frequency (ELF) transmissions which are picked up by trailing a very long wire. The transmitting station is some where in Michigan and the reasons that it is used is that the signal travels through the earth, so it can be recieved anywhere in the world and is not suceptiable to typical radio interference. The disadvantage to this is that it is very slow and it is heavily encrypted. I was stationed on one of the first submarines to have access to e-mail and we had to come to the surface to send and receive due to the high bit rate. This may have changed since this was 10 yrs ago and technology has changed.

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Re: The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

09/09/2009 9:28 AM

There's one submarine (the Nautilus) that you can take a tour through. There are also 4 midget subs, re-creations of various parts of the insides of subs that you can walk through, and (If I remember right) a full-size layout diagram of a WWII diesel boat.

However, if it's quantity you're interested in, I recommend Battleship Cove in Fall River MA. Where you can wander around through:

The U.S.S. Massachussetts - a WWII South Dakota class battleship.

The Lionfish - WWII diesel sub

The Joseph P. Kennedy - a cold war-era destroyer

The Hiddensee - A Soviet missile corvette from the 1980's

Two WWII PT boats (some of the last remaining) - You can view these from the outside and through cutouts, but can't wander around on them.

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#17
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Re: The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

09/09/2009 9:40 AM

1. Submarines have a variety of communications methods available, depending on the mission requirements. Missile submarines require continuous comms in case of launch orders. Since most of the planning (target selection, etc.) is done in advance, the amount of data which must be transferred is minimal and does not require high speed communications. Conversely, attack subs do not need to stay in contact all the time, but may need guidance/approval/revised op orders from shore-based command authority. Since the situation is somewhat fluid, the sitrep and reply may be rather lengthy, requiring a higher throughput and more bandwidth for more detailed communications.

Older missile subs used VHF. The original antenna design was simply a very long buoyant wire trailing from the back of the sail. The sub could stay 100+ ft underwater and enough of the antenna floated on the surface to provide an adequate antenna. One drawback of this design is that limited maneuverability and flexibility of the submarine. Go too deep or too fast, or even just turn too quickly, and the antenna would dip beneath the surface, breaking the comm link. A more recent design used a retractable buoy, shaped somewhat like a very small (>10 ft long) submarine. The buoy is connected to the submarine by a tether. The buoy floats a few feet beneath the waves. Depth sensors in the buoy provide input to an automated control system for the tether to maintain buoy depth. A much shorter buoyant wire trails from the buoy. The control system allows higher speeds and deeper dives while still maintaining communications.

Attack subs, and "housekeeping" communications (email, supply requisitions, etc.) on missile subs, use UHF or higher for more bandwidth. The higher frequencies require a smaller antenna which is hoisted on a retractible stiff mast to get it completely clear of the water. Dragging a vertical post through the water is somewhat obvious, making the sub much more vulnerable during this time. A "burst mode" of high speed transmission is used to minimize exposure.

2. As for the profile testing, the Captain has very little to do with crew selection. He can reject a particular individual for cause, but selection is done at a higher level. Most of the profiling is based on making the training very difficult, and weeding out the problems during that period. As I'm sure NukeGeek can attest, nuclear training for the engineering crews is no cakewalk. After the 6 months of classroom training covering everything from basic math to chemistry, metallurgy, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and nuclear physics, the trainee undergoes another 6 months of "hands-on" operational training on a live reactor plant, with a 12-hour/day, 7-day/week rotating shift schedule. The training for most other ratings may not have as nasty a practical training schedule, but it is still tough to get through. Follow that with submarine school, where students learn about ship systems and are then drilled in realistic emergency operations, and most of the "problem children" never reach the fleet. Having served on both types of submarines, I would say that boredome is the worst enemy of morale and sanity. US submarine crews are often training, cleaning or studying. Keep people challenged and focused on their jobs, and the annoying mannerisms of a colleague stay minor distractions.

3. Aircraft carriers operate in a task group with layered defense. Airborne, surface and submerged assets are all part of the task group. One of the most potent enemies of a carrier is an attack submarine, and the best defense against it is another attack submarine with a well-trained crew.

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Re: The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

09/09/2009 11:25 AM

You are right on about the US Naval Nuclear Training Pipeline. The only thing that I have to disagree with is the attendance to Sub School. Naval Nuclear Training Prototypes are based upon submarine reactor plants. Therefore it is assumed that by the time the trainee arrives at his first submarine, he (sorry ladies, no women on subs yet!) has the same level of damage control training as the people that go to Sub School. It is expected that the nuclear trained crewmember to concentrate on qualifying for his first watch station, then concentrate on the other ship's systems up forward (the cone!!!), but is still required to qualify submarines in one year. Most nuclear trained personnel that I have served with have done it within 6 months. (Unless the ship is in dry dock!).

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#19
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Re: The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

09/09/2009 12:28 PM

I should have been a little more specific. I was referring to coners having to attend Sub School.

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Re: The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

09/09/2009 1:18 PM

Hey, we better be nice to the coners! We made it back from deployment/patrol alive! Us Nukes just "pushed"

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Re: The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

09/18/2009 9:49 AM

Yeah, as you know, that is why they only transmit the ships three-letter call sign to get them close to the surface.

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Re: The Submarine Force Museum: The USS Nautilus (Part 1)

10/01/2018 10:56 AM

I was on submarines. But, the prototype I was assigned to was the D1G (surface ship) at Balston Spa New York (close to Saratoga Springs, where I lived off-base). After I got out of active duty, I joined the Reserves and was assigned to a mine sweeper where I was working on my Surface Warfare pin. I was wondering how that would be worn on my uniform. I never seen anyone wear both the Dolphin pin and the Surface Warfare pin at the same time. But, that never came up. I went back on active duty before I finished.

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