Today’s headlines say a mini Russian Sub has planted a flag on the seabed of the North Pole, presumably claiming the region for Russia.

However, they are a bit late in saying they were the first ones there, since 49 years ago on August 3rd 1958, the USS Nautilus reached the North Pole under the polar ice cap. The Captain sent back the classic message: Nautilus 90 North to confirm his success, and later wrote a book of the same name.

For those of us who are geeks, we remember that the Nautilus was the first Nuclear submarine, and a breakthrough in technology.

And everyone knows that the Nautilus was named after Jules Verne’s nuclear submarine in 20,000 Leagues under the sea…right? Well, not quite.

As Jay Garmon of TechRepublic points out: Verne’s submarine was run on electric batteries. It was Disney’s classic film of his book that changed the power plant to nuclear power.

And although the Nautilus was the first Nuclear submarine, it was not the first ship that bore the name: two ships and four submarines had previously used the name Nautilus.

And Garmon tells more trivia about the name Nautilus.

Verne’s Nautilus was named after an experimental submarine namedthe Nautilus, and ships bearing that name go back at least to the mid 1700’s.

An engineer named Fulton built the submarine for Napoleon, and included in the design many practical aspects that we see incorporated in modern submarines. However, it was an idea before it’s time, and Napoleon didn’t want it, and neither did the British Fleet.

So as a result, a disappointed Fulton returned to the states where he promptly invented the first commercial steamship, a ferry that went upstream from NewYork City to Albany.

As for the nuclear submarine Nautilus, despite it’s high tech design, one amusing story is how they fixed a stubborn leak in the condenser unit.

A leaking condenser unit threatened the secret mission to the North Pole, but security concerns and time precluded repairs through the usual channels. Experts hit on the idea of using Bar’s Leak, an automotive stop-leak product developed for leaking radiators.

Commander William Anderson ordered crewmen to change into civilian clothing. The men fanned out across Seattle in taxicabs to buy cans of Bar’s Leak at local service stations.

The sailors in mufti returned with 140 quarts of Bar’s Leak, half of which was poured into the condenser. The leak stopped.

So, thanks to Bar’s Leak and thinking outside the box, the US beat the Russians to the North Pole under the ice.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket

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