NEWS that the nuclear-powered submarine Nautilus had travelled swiftly and silently underseas from Pearl Harbor to the Bering Straits and then some 1,830 miles under the drifting, grinding Polar ice pack and on to Iceland and Western Europe--some 8,000 miles in all--thrilled the free world. The voyage under the ice which permanently shrouds the uncharted bottom of the Arctic basin was done in less than four days. The entire route was through international waters common to all, and almost all of it was in the invisible depths of the ocean.
Not even Jules Verne dreamed of finding an undersea alternative to the elusive Northwest Passage which led Cabot and Hudson and other great sea captains to the very discovery and exploration of North America. The Arctic ice crushed all hopes for a shorter route to the Pacific and the Indies from that time until our nuclear age. Thus, the accomplishment of our Nautilus, with all of its strategic and even commercial implications, reaches across the centuries of modern history. The ability to send fleets and to transport cargoes under icebound seas at vastly increased speeds over vastly decreased distances has altered the geographical and geophysical framework of our world. It takes its place in significance alongside the advent of earth satellites. Quite clearly, changes in sea power, and specifically undersea military and perhaps commercial navigation, if the problem of expense can be solved, may be the beginning of a revolution in strategic thinking. A new Mahan is needed.
This voyage, taken in conjunction with the development of a compact, solid-propellant, ballistic missile and of a launching mechanism and a special submarine to fire it, also indicates immense potentialities for a new weapons system. The Polaris submarines, of which several are under construction, will be equipped to navigate accurately for long distances underneath the water, as the Skipjack, Swordfish and Sargo have demonstrated is possible, though less dramatically than the Skate and the Nautilus. These new submarines not only pose a serious threat in
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