Nautilus (SSN 571) glides on the River Thames with the help of tugboats as it returns home to the Navy’s Submarine Force Museum in Groton, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. The submarine has been undergoing an estimated $36 million conservation project at the Naval Submarine Base since October 2021. (Daniel Passapera /Special to The Day)
Crews begin preparing Nautilus (SSN 571) at the Naval Submarine Base for its return to the Naval Submarine Force Museum in Groton on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. Since October 2021, the submarine has undergone an estimated $36 million conservation project. (Daniel Passapera/Special to The Day)
Crew members prepare the Nautilus (SSN 571) for its return to the Navy’s Submarine Force Museum in Groton, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. The submarine has been undergoing a conservation project at the Naval Submarine Base since October 2021. (Daniel Passapera/ Special for the day)
Tugs Paul and John Wronowski tow Nautilus (SSN 571) through the River Thames back to its home at the Navy’s Submarine Force Museum on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. Since October 2021, the submarine has undergone an estimated $36 million conservation project. (Daniel Passapera/Special to The Day)
Crew members prepare Nautilus (SSN 571) to dock at the Navy’s Submarine Force Museum Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. The submarine had been undergoing a $36 million conservation effort at the Naval Submarine Base since October 2021. (Daniel Passapera/Special for the Day)
Groton ― The Nautilus returned to the Submarine Force Museum on Thursday after months of repairs and conservation work at the Naval Submarine Base.
Crew members worked busily that sunny morning to detach the Nautilus from a pier at the base to get the historic ship underway. Two tugboats towed the 319-foot-long submarine down the River Thames to a pier at the museum, where the newly renovated vessel will reopen to the public next month. Workers on the museum pier and in work boats helped secure the vessel in place.
“It went smoothly,” said Lt. Cmdr. Derek Sutton, officer in charge of the Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, and director of the Submarine Force Museum.
The goal of the $36 million conservation project, which began last fall and is in its final stages, is to give Nautilus a “clean bill of health” for the next 30 years, Sutton said.
“Returning to the pier here today is the start of the 30 years in which she will be able to continue to tell the stories of the bold and courageous sailors who have served aboard every submarine throughout the history of the U.S. Submarine Force, Sutton said.
The crew from Nautilus worked with Electric Boat and the Navy on the preservation project, removing the topside wooden decking, blasting and repainting the hull, repairing the ship’s superstructure and cleaning and preserving tanks, according to a news release from the Navy foundation. The Mystic Seaport Museum was working on installing new wooden decks. The project included, among other things, lighting improvements and additional access points for staff.
The historic ship was towed to the base last fall for preservation work. Returning to the museum on Thursday, final maintenance work will be completed at the museum pier, Sutton said.
The Submarine Force Museum is open all weekend but will temporarily close Aug. 8-18 for maintenance work on the Nautilus, he said. The museum will reopen on August 19, although the historic ship will remain closed until its grand reopening in September.
A grand reopening ceremony is planned for 12:30 p.m. on September 9, the same day the Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival begins. Sutton said the ceremony is open to the public and everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend and be one of the first people back aboard the Nautilus after the preservation project is complete.
Nautilus, built by Electric Boat, was launched in 1954 and entered the US Navy that same year. In 1958, Nautilus made history as the first ship to reach the North Pole.
The ship was decommissioned in 1980 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1982. The ship and museum first opened to the public in 1986, according to the museum’s website.
The Nautilus underwent a $4.7 million conservation project at Electric Boat in the early 2000s, the Navy said.