For more about my tour, the museum, and the submarine, check out A museum 20,000 leagues in the making: Exploring the USS Nautilus at the Submarine Force Library and Museum.
This is a full-size submarine, albeit a tiny one. It's the US Navy-built X-1, the first of its size. It was mostly used to test the defensive capabilities of harbors.
This is one of the subs that likely inspired the Navy to build the X-1. It's a WWII-era Japanese Type A Ko-hyoteki, which would be carried close to its target by a mothership -- often another submarine -- and launched.
Here's a replica of the Turtle, the first combat submarine. It attempted to attach charges to British ships in New York Harbor during the Revolutionary War. It was unsuccessful, but the idea caught on.
Prior to the Nautilus, conventionally powered submarines would have to resurface regularly to recharge their batteries. But when powered by a nuclear reactor, a sub could (theoretically) stay down as long as the crew had food. The Nautilus was rated to a depth of 700 feet, more than twice that of earlier craft.
With 13,400 horsepower she was fast, maxing out at around 26 mph underwater. For comparison, the USS Cobia (which I've toured) was built only 12 years earlier and could manage only around 10 mph.
The Nautilus was the first submarine to pass under the ice at the North Pole, heading north from Alaska and surfacing near Greenland in 1958.
This is one of the most elaborate entrances to any sub I've ever toured.
Like most submarine museums, a large hole has been cut in the hull add stairs and make embarking easier.
Unique among the many submarines I've toured, everything is behind thick plexiglass -- which feels excessive.
This was the torpedo room. The Nautilus had six forward-facing torpedo tubes.
This gentleman is keeping watch over the wardroom where the officers ate.
The Nautilus shared a name with the fictional sub from Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas. In 1957, the French navy's chief of staff gave a 1892 copy of the book to the (real) Nautilus's commander after it sailed under the polar ice cap and the North Pole.
The commanding officer got a lovely stateroom.
The executive officer's cabin isn't quite as lavish as the captain's quarters.
Here's one of the Nautilus's staterooms, with room for three of the ship's 13 officers.
Two officers shared this cabin.
Heading out of officer country, we get into the heart of the ship.
The attack center and periscope room were once the sub's nerve centers.
On Aug. 3, 1958, the Nautilus became the first ship to reach the North Pole in an expedition called Operation Sunshine.
In one of the Nautilus's biggest differences from her descendants, she was loud. Apparently, the sonar was useless at medium speeds.
This sailor is in charge of the cramped Electronic Surveillance Bay, which searched for and identified surface ships based on the type and usage of their radar.
These are likely the first real stairs installed on any submarine. Prior to this, subs used ladders exclusively. Behind me is a locked hatch, which leads to the (off limits) room that housed the former nuclear reactor. In the Redoutable submarine's reactor room, which I've also toured, a projector played a video of how they cut the ship apart to remove its reactor.
On the deck below the attack center and periscope room is the control room, where sailors drove the sub.
The sailor closest controlled the bow planes. The sailor next to him moved the stern planes and the sailor farthest from the camera the rudder.
Here are the controls for the boat's ballast tanks.
Despite having a nuclear reactor that could theoretically generate power for years, the boat still had batteries in case of emergency.
The crew mess is surprisingly spacious for a 1950s submarine.
Meals were served every six hours.
As roomy as it was compared to previous submarines, the crew still didn't have a lot of space.
Senior enlisted personnel, aka chief petty officers, had bunks, toilet, shower and a lounge area.
The berths here and on my right are aft of the forward torpedo room. The area where I'm standing, which I believe was added during the conversion, would have contained crew berths.
In addition to 13 officers, the Nautilus had 92 enlisted sailors.
Well, not quite. But crews could watch a film.
Here's a last look past the stairs at some of the torpedo tubes.