The record-breaking dive under the Arctic ice



Staff member

The record-breaking dive under the Arctic ice - BBC

In 1958, a US submarine became the first vessel to reach the North Pole – by travelling under the ice. Its mission unlocked a whole new world for scientists to explore.​

On 3 August 1958, the commander of the world's first nuclear submarine made an extraordinary, if somewhat tongue in cheek, entry in his logbook: "Embarked following personage at North Pole…" wrote USS Nautilus commander William Anderson, "…Santa Claus, affiliation: Christmas."

It was the final sentence of a celebratory record of the first crossing of the North Pole by any ship under its own power, a top-secret mission codenamed 'Operation Sunshine'.

The transit took place with the 97-metre-long (319ft) submarine and its 116 crew (it's not clear in the logbook if that includes Santa) entirely submerged under the ice, a feat impossible before the invention of compact nuclear-powered propulsion.

As Anderson announced to his crew: "For the world, our country, and the navy – the North Pole."