June 8 - 1931: Sub leaves Provincetown for North Pole

Proved subs can operate beneath the polar ice cap
Wilkin's Nautilus at the dock in Spitsbergen (left) and at the edge of the polar ice cap (right).

1931: Nautilus is leaving for North Pole

On this day in 1931, the submarine Nautilus was reported in dense fog 238 miles off Cape Cod on its way to attempt to explore the North Pole under the ice cap.

Sir George Hubert Wilkins, who arranged this first attempt at navigating under the polar region, was an Australian polar explorer, pilot, soldier, geographer and photographer.

Wilkins led the failed Nautilus expedition to the North Pole in the summer of 1931. Despite the failure to meet his intended objective, he was able to prove that submarines were capable of operating beneath the polar ice cap, thereby paving the way for future successful missions.


The Nautilus was USS O-12 (SS-73), an O-class submarine of the United States Navy. Her keel was laid down on 6 March 1916 by the Lake Torpedo Boat Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Wilkins died in the United States in 1958. The US Navy took his ashes to the North Pole aboard the submarine USS Skate on 17 March 1959.

U.S. Navy photos.

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