50 Years Ago - USS Skate (SSN-578) Becomes First Submarine to Surface at the Geographic North Pole
Fifty years ago, USS Skate (SSN-578) became the first submarine to surface at the geographic North Pole.
This feat built upon the pioneering work done by USS Nautilus (SSN-571), the world's first nuclear powered submarine, when she crossed the North Pole while submerged just the year before.
The Arctic first became an area for active submarine operations during World War II. German submarines discovered that ducking under the ice after an attack allowed them to escape detection from surface ships and even aircraft.
During the Cold War, Soviet ballistic missile submarines, with the deadly payload of nuclear armed missiles, were specifically designed to "punch through" thick Arctic ice in order to fire their missiles. This made it imperative that American attack submarines be capable of effectively operating under the same ice, in order to follow and track, and if necessary, attack and sink, these submarines.
Skate would make history again in 1962, when she rendezvoused with USS Seadragon (SSN-584) at the North Pole, one of the few times that two submarines surfaced at the pole at the same time.