The White House disclosed today that the atom-powered submarine Nautilus has completed man's first voyage under the North Pole.
It said the historic voyage beneath the ice from Pacific to Atlantic waters presages a new commercial route under the pole for giant cargo submarines powered by splitting atoms.
The White House disclosed the new feat of the world's first nuclear sub at a ceremony in which President Eisenhower awarded the Legion of Merit to the Nautilus' skipper, Cmdr, W.R. Anderson of Bakersville, Tenn.
Anderson and 116 crewmen sailed aboard the Nautilus from Honolulu at 11 p.m. PDT, July 23 on a voyage destined to take the sub 8,000 miles through three oceans to Europe.
At 5:37 p.m. PDT, Aug. 1 the Nautilus nosed under the Arctic ice near Point Barrow on the north coast of Alaska.
By the time it emerged near Greenland, at 6:54 a.m. PDT, Aug. 5, it had charted a new route in man's long conquest of the seas, discovered an unsuspected deep channel to the Arctic, and found undersea mountain ranges not previously known.
Anderson said the Nautilus cruised more than 400 feet beneath the icecap which was 10 to 15 feet thick, two or three feet less than it is in winter.
The great sub was under the icepack for about four days during which it traveled 1,830 miles.
Not once did the submarine's power plant, using primordial energy falter or fail.
The great moment came at 8:15 a.m. PDT, Aug. 3, At that hour and minute the Nautilus drove directly under the North Pole and found itself in a new hemisphere.
The Nautilus, named for the fictional ship of Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Had equaled the imaginary feat of its namesake and had opened a new passage between the major oceans of the world.
The Nautilus found and followed a "deep sea valley" 300 to 1,200 feet deep into the Arctic Sea basin. Under the pole it discovered that the water was 13,410 feet deep, 1,927 feet deeper than supposed.
It also discovered ranges of mountains existing deep under the Arctic ice.
From Hawaii to the Atlantic the Nautilus cruised for the most part at a smooth 20 knots.
To receive his award Cmdr. Anderson was brought off the submarine by helicopter 14 hours previously and flown to the White House for the ceremony.
Anderson's citation said that the Nautilus, in cruising across the top of the world under the ice, "pioneered a submerged sealane between the Eastern and Western hemispheres."
"This points the way," the citation said, "for further exploration and possible use of this route by nuclear powered cargo submarines as a new commercial seaway between the major oceans of the world."
Anderson, 37, said the submarine is now headed toward Europe under its executive officer, Cmdr. Frank Adams.
He recalled that the Nautilus made preliminary excursions under the ice cap last September from the Atlantic side and had reached a point 180 miles from the North Pole. He said it ran into "some difficulties" then but that the crew learned a lot.
He was told last winter, he said, to begin secret preparation for a possible voyage under the pole.
He reported that the Nautilus left New London, Conn., last April and traveled through the Panama Canal to the Pacific. It left Seattle June 5 to go to the Bering Straits and the Chucki Sea and make another preliminary excursion under the ice from the Pacific side.