August 3 - First Watercraft to Reach North Pole

    Posted on August 3, 2022     

This is an update of my post published on August 3, 2011:

The USS Nautilus was the world's first operational nuclear-powered submarine. Because of her nuclear propulsion, she was able to remain submerged much longer than diesel-electric submarines, and so she was able to break many records and establish many firsts. One of her most famous exploits was achieved on this day in 1958, as the submarine reached the geographical North Pole.

The submarine began this West Coast voyage, called Operation Sunshine, in April of that year, and she tried to enter the Arctic Ocean in mid-June. However, there was deep draft ice that made it too dangerous. The Nautilus went all the way to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii to wait for better ice conditions. In late July, it was deemed safe to try again, so the Nautilus traveled north again and submerged in the Barrow Sea Valley on August 1. The submarine reached the North Pole on August 3 and continued on another 96 hours (4 days) until she could surface northeast of Greenland.

This is the USS Providence celebrating
the 50th anniversary of the Nautilus's
polar crossing--in the Arctic Ocean, of

What is the geographical North Pole?

It is the point in the northern half of Earth where the planet's axis of rotation meets its surface.

On a globe, it is the spot where the upper portion of the metal rod around which the globe spins emerges from the Earth's sphere and attaches to the globe's stand.

The South Pole, of course, is the point in the southern half of Earth where the axis of rotation meets the surface. And on a globe it is the spot where the lower portion of the rod emerges.

Did you know...?

  • The North Pole is defined as the northernmost point on Earth. It lies exactly opposite the South Pole, which is the southernmost point on Earth.
  • The North Pole lies in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, although that ocean is sometimes covered in ice, and the South Pole is in the middle of the ice-covered land mass that is Antarctica.
  • Earth has a slight wobble in its spin. For this reason, the North Pole isn't in one fixed location—but instead it ranges around a few meters.
  • The Magnetic North Pole is the point on Earth's Northern Hemisphere at which Earth's magnetic field points downwards. It is not the same spot as the Geographic North Pole, and it slowly changes over time. The Magnetic North Pole was in Canada in 2001, and it has been moving toward Russia more than 30 miles (more than 55 kilometers) per year! (Learn more here.)

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