This 60 Day Submarine Voyage in 1960 Tested the Psychological and Physical Limits of Crew

Commissioning ceremony for USS Triton at the US Navy Submarine Base New London. US Navy

2. Triton was a uniquely configured American submarine

Each of the first eight American nuclear submarines was purpose built, and considerably different from its immediate predecessor. USS Nautilus, for example, was built to prove the suitability of nuclear power for submarine operations. USS Skate was designed to crack through the Arctic ice, proving the ability to operate successfully in those waters. Triton was designed as a radar picket submarine. After World War II the surface Navy task force was centered on the aircraft carrier. Ships of the task force needed advanced radar pickets to give them sufficient warning of an attack so they would be able to respond and defend themselves. Picket destroyers were vulnerable to attack. Picket submarines were safer.

In order to perform suitably as a radar picket, the submarine needed to be fast enough to keep up with the task force it guarded. For that reason, Triton was equipped with two nuclear reactors, which drove two screws. It was the only American submarine built to such a configuration. It was also designed with a knife-edge bow, making it as fast on the surface as it was submerged, a rarity in a submarine. During its initial sea-trials in late 1959, Triton registered a surface speed which exceeded 35 miles per hour, a feat the ship repeated while submerged. Triton was also the last American submarine to include an after-torpedo room, allowing it to fire weapons from both stern and bow.