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Arctic Mission: 90 North by Airship and Submarine - William Robert Anderson

  • Thomas Balch Library (map)

To help salve the sting of orbiting Sputniks, the United States needed a dramatic demonstration of technological prowess; early in 1958, the White House ordered a top secret under-ice transit of the Arctic Ocean—Pacific to Atlantic—via the North Pole. And that spring, the Office of Naval Research initiated a unique project: to assess whether non-rigid airships (blimps) could support field parties deployed in the Arctic. This book recounts two successful missions. In August, the nuclear submarine Nautilus (SSN 571) reached 90 North and, continuing under ice, logged the first deep-ocean transit of the basin.

William Robert Anderson was selected by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover to be the second skipper of the first working nuclear submarine to be placed into service, the USS Nautilus, and was its commander from 1957 to 1959. Anderson and his crew received international notice when the Nautilus became the first submarine to sail successfully under the polar ice cap surrounding the North Pole. He died 25 February 2007, after living in Leesburg, Virginia during the final years of his life. En route to rendezvous with an IGY drifting station on T-3, an ice island, US Navy airship BUNO 126719 became the sole military airship to cross the Arctic Circle. This work is based on first-hand accounts, including journal excerpts from Dr. Waldo Lyon—a force behind US under-ice submarine development.

William F. Althoff, an environmental geologist and former Ramsey Fellow at the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, is the author of five books of naval history.

Books will be available for purchase.