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"On This Day" In Engineering History

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May 10, 1960 – Circumnavigating the Earth Underwater

Posted May 10, 2007 10:49 AM by Steve Melito

On this day in engineering history, the USS Triton (SSRN-586) became the first vessel to circumnavigate the globe underwater. The U.S. Navy's first nuclear-powered, radar-picket submarine left New London, Connecticut on February 16, 1960 for a maiden voyage that would last 84 days and cover 41,500 nautical miles. Although the Triton's "shakedown cruise" did not identify serious problems with the boat itself, the submarine was forced to surface off the coast of South America when a radar operator with a kidney stone was transferred to the USS Macon (CA-132). The unprecedented success of the first U.S. Navy ship to carry two nuclear reactors demonstrated the endurance and reliability of nuclear propulsion and earned the Triton a Presidential Unit Citation from Dwight D. Eisenhower after its return to the United States on May 10, 1960.

As a radar-picket submarine, the USS Triton was designed to operate at high speeds ahead of a naval task force while coordinating the interception of enemy aircraft. During her historic round-the-world cruise, the USS Triton traveled at a steady 21 knots for almost three months. Although this speed was less than the ship's surface-maximum (30+ knots) or submerged-maximum (27+ knots), the U.S. Navy was pleased with the reliable performance of the Triton's two 22,000-hp nuclear reactors from General Electric. The submarine's successful shakedown cruise also proved the soundness of the ship's keel, which had been laid by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics on May 29, 1956. The largest submarine ever built, the USS Triton measured 447 feet in length and presented special problems during construction. For example, because the submarine's tail was too tall to pass under its scaffolding, the top 12 feet of the tail had to be removed and later reattached.

Upon leaving Connecticut on February 16, 1960, the USS Triton headed south along the eastern coasts of North and South America, sighting the St. Peter and Paul Rocks off the coast of Brazil on February 24. The ship rounded Cape Horn on March 7, passed into the Pacific Ocean, and crossed the International Dateline on March 23. The USS Triton then passed Guam and the Philippines before threading the Lombok Strait and entering the Indian Ocean on April 5. Less than two weeks later, the USS Triton rounded the Cape of Good Hope and re-entered the South Atlantic Ocean. A side trip to Cadiz, Spain allowed the ship to deliver a plaque with a carrack which resembled Victoria, one of Ferdinand Magellan's ships. Fittingly, this gift to the Spanish government bore the Latin phrase Ave Nobilis Dux, Iterum Factum Est ("Hail Noble Captain, It is Done Again"), a reference to Magellan, the Spanish explorer who first circumnavigated the globe. Finally, On May 10, 1960, the USS Groton arrived back at Groton, Connecticut.

Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Triton_(SSRN-586)

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ship/ssn-586.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S4G_reactor

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdinand_Magellan

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Re: May 10, 1960 – Circumnavigating the Earth Underwater

05/10/2007 6:33 PM

My father who at this time worked for Vickers Armstrong a ship building company was involved with the first British atomic powered submarine HMS Dreadnought. He over saw the electronic surveilence during its sea trials. That is the internal monitoring of its performance, speed, sonar equipment, general systems.

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