The Ice Diaries -- USS NAUTILUSFifty years ago, with the U.S. having been beaten into space by the Soviet Union's Sputnik and questions raised about our nation’s ability to prevail in the Cold War, America scored a major triumph under the seas, as the world’s first nuclear powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, traveled beneath the North Pole towards Russian waters.

 

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The details behind this daring and historic mission have at last been declassified and are told in an important new book, The Ice Diaries: The Untold Story of the Cold War’s Most Daring Mission by Don Keith and Captain William Anderson.

The book was written by Captain William R. Anderson, who commanded the fabled sub, and best-selling author Don Keith. Captain Anderson, later a U.S. Congressman, completed the telling of the dramatic story before he passed away in February 2007.

The idea of navigating below the North Pole was made possible by nuclear power. But the ability to travel farther without resurfacing did not necessarily equate to smooth sailing. Anderson and Keith tell the stories of encounters with terrible storms, fires in the hold, collisions with ice, broken compasses and more, each of which threatened the world's most visible vessel and her 116-man crew. All of this plays against the backdrop of an Eisenhower Administration faced with mounting questions of America’s ability to compete technologically with the Soviets.

The USS Nautilus was a magical name in 1958; its historic journey, one of the shining moments of International Geophysical Year. At the completion of its mission, Capt. Anderson and his crew were celebrated in a ticker tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes in lower Manhattan. Now, for the first time, the complete story of this history-changing event is available, yet it is still primarily a fast-paced adventure story about a brave crew and their amazing ship.

Click HERE to purchase your copy of THE ICE DIARIES.

Click HERE to purchase your copy of the audio book of THE ICE DIARIES.

 


 

PRAISE FOR THE ICE DIARIES

 

"...the most definitive and entertaining first-hand account we'll get...fans of naval history in particular will enjoy this inspirational adventure story...(a) first-rate account."

--Publishers Weekly

 

"Besides providing an insider's perspective on a unique chapter of the Cold War, Anderson's and Keith's vividly rendered The Ice Diaries is also a moving human drama filled with adventure, courage and heart."

-- St. Petersburg (Florida) Times

 

“Captain Anderson and the crew of the USS Nautilus exemplified daring and boldness in taking their boat beneath the Arctic ice to the North Pole. This expertly told story captures the drama, danger, and importance of that monumental achievement.”

--Captain Stanley D.M. Carpenter, Professor of Strategy and Policy, U.S. Naval War College

 

“Few maritime exploits in history have so startled the world as the silent, secret transpolar voyage of the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarine Nautilus, and none since the age of Columbus and Vasco da Gama has opened, in one bold stroke, so vast and forbidding an area of the seas.”

--Paul O’Neil, Life Magazine

 

"Don Keith and Bill Anderson's The Ice Diaries certainly ranks in the top ten of all submarine books. A true first-person account of the most important submarine accomplishment of the twentieth century."

--Jon Jaques, submarine historian and national treasurer of United States Submarine Veterans.

 

“A fascinating look at a little-known time in history. Captain Anderson and Don Keith take us on a fast-paced trip with Nautilus exploring under the Arctic ice for the first time at the height of the Cold War. Live this adventure with the man who had the foresight to make it possible and the daring to lead his crew to the North Pole and back.”

--CDR (Ret) George Wallace, co-author of the national bestseller Final Bearing and former skipper of USS Houston

 

"The authors discuss submarine principles with a fervor bordering on passion...(their) calm descriptions of penetrating the ice barriers with only a few feet clearance above and below and navigating in high latitudes where all directions are south...are described in vivid detail."

--Rear Admiral William J. Holland Jr., US Navy (retired) in Naval History magazine

 


 

Excerpt from THE ICE DIARIES
 
Copyright 2008 by William R. Anderson and Don Keith
 
“0512: IN THE VICINITY OF A LEAD.”
 
Much quicker than any of us wanted to, we reached the point where we had to return to meet again with Kelly and his boat or there might be general panic over our possible fate. Shortly after hitting the point where we had to turn and start back, Lyon reported that his overhead sonar indicated a lead, almost directly above our position.
 
As badly as I wanted to quickly surface and look around, I elected to proceed cautiously. After considerable maneuvering and measuring, the river of open water appeared to be about 400 yards by 1,400 yards. Since part of our mission called for the development of surfacing tactics in these conditions, I decided we might just as well try it then and there. I was confident we could handle the vertical ascent with ease. We had practiced it on the trip up there, and everything had gone very well.
 
We maneuvered Nautilus around the opening at various depths and courses to determine if it was fully clear of ice, as it appeared to be on Waldo’s equipment. It was still a relatively small opening for a vessel our size to ease through, a bit like tossing a basketball through a hoop from behind the three-point line. My officers and I felt we could get a good enough view of it with the sonar and should have no problem squeezing at least our sail up through the opening in the ice.
 
“0621: MADE VERTICAL ASCENT FROM 120 FEET.”
 
Our position was eighty-one degrees, two minutes north, six degrees east. The SQS-4 scanning sonar and the upward-beamed fathometers showed us a picture of clear water directly overhead. All the time I was on number one periscope and had the optics tilted upward. The view was not perfect. I could not tell visually if what I was seeing was open water all the way to the surface or not. The transmission of light through the ice surrounding the lead and the cloudiness of the water at this depth meant I was mostly seeing into a nondescript grayness. It could be open water or solid ice.
 
I made the decision to rely on the sonar and fathometers. They still showed a clear path to the surface. We used high-pressure air to put an estimated three-thousand-pound bubble in a ballast tank. This was calculated to give us six thousand pounds of positive buoyancy as the sail reached the surface. We only wanted to go up enough so the sail poked through the hole in the ice. We certainly did not want to bob up and down too much.
 
I requested a vertical ascent rate of about three inches per second, but something did not feel right as Nautilus began to head toward the surface. It quickly became obvious that we had overshot. We were coming up at about four times that rate—at a foot per second—due to the effect of the water’s frigid temperature!
 
Still should be okay, I thought. The periscope will break the water surface any moment and I will have a clear view of miles and miles of ice in all directions.
 
I kept my eye on the eyepiece, the periscope turned northeast so I would not be looking directly into the brilliant Arctic sun when we rose clear of the icy surface. Then, at a distance later calculated to be four feet—about four seconds’ worth of vertical travel between the viewing window of my periscope and what should have been open water—my field of view was filled with what appeared to be solid ice.
 
Solid ice!
 
I instinctively braced myself and shouted the order to flood the negative ballast tank, the quickest way to take on weight and stop our ascent.
 
“Flood negative!”
 
Even as I heard the whooosh! of seawater rushing into the ballast tank, I felt the ship shudder sickeningly. The deck lurched beneath my feet. My periscope optics turned black as night. It would not have surprised me at all if a torrent of ice-cold seawater rained down through a massive rent in our sail—if the ship had heeled over, its superstructure breached, and she headed on an uncontrollable dive for the bottom of the sea, taking all of us with her.
 
But except for the dizzying shudder and the blind periscope, everything appeared normal as we dropped down again away from the surface. We headed down from a depth of 58 feet at the time of the collision with the ice, going deep, and then leveled off at 250 feet.
 
“Number one periscope has had it,” I told my diving officer.
 
I almost hated to ask the question, dreading the answers I might get back, but soon I was on the 1MC, requesting all compartments to check for and report leaks. One by one, each reported no apparent problems.
 
Satisfied we had no major structural damage, we set course due south, back toward the edge of the ice pack to where Trigger awaited our return. With no hesitation, we began to look for another opportunity to once again attempt to surface and survey the damage.
 
But when we went up to 120 feet to begin to look for another hole in the ice, we discovered, to our dismay, that our number two periscope was out too, optically useless. Though it was fully housed at the time, it was obvious that it also had been damaged in the collision with the ice.
 
We were beneath treacherous ice and we were blind.
 

Click HERE to purchase your copy of THE ICE DIARIES.

Click HERE to purchase your copy of the audio book of THE ICE DIARIES.

"The Ice Diaries is a most interesting read.  There is drama and tension throughout the book.  This book should be included in the library of any student of submarine history."

-- The Klaxon, Submarine Force Museum and Library