Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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Skate II (SSN-578)

1957–1986


Image related to Skate II
Caption: On 17 March 1959, the nuclear submarine Skate (SSN-578) surfaced through Arctic ice at the North Pole. She had visited the Pole the previous year, becoming the second ship to do so.

A salt water fish of the ray family, with a broad, flat body, and greatly developed pectoral fins that give the fish a rhomboidal shape.

II

(SSN-578: displacement 2,570 (surfaced), 2,861 (submerged); length 267' 8"; beam 25'; draft 20'; speed 18+ knots complement 93; armament 6 21-inch torpedo tubes; class Skate)

Skate (SSN-578) was laid down on 21 July 1955 by General Dynamics Corp. (Electric Boat Co. Div.), Groton, Conn.; launched on 16 May 1957; sponsored by Mrs. Lewis L. Strauss; and commissioned on 23 December 1957, Cmdr. James F. Calvert in command.

Skate conducted shakedown training out of New London until 28 January 1958 when she cruised to the Bermuda operating area; returning to her homeport on 8 February. Sixteen days later, the submarine set a course for Portland, England. Before returning home, she had also visited ports in France and the Netherlands. 

On 30 July, Skate steamed to the Arctic where she operated under the ice for ten days. During this time, she surfaced nine times through the ice, navigated over 2,400 miles under it, and became the second ship to reach the North Pole. On 23 August, she steamed into Bergen, Norway. The submarine made port calls in the Netherlands, Belgium, and France before returning to New London on 25 September 1958. 

In the following months, Skate, as the first ship of her class, conducted various tests in the vicinity of her homeport. In early March 1959, she again headed for the Arctic to pioneer operations during the period of extreme cold and maximum ice thickness. The submarine steamed 3,900 miles under pack ice while surfacing through it ten times. On 17 March, she surfaced at the North Pole to commit the ashes of the famed explorer Sir Hubert Wilkins to the Arctic waste. When the submarine returned to port, she was awarded a bronze star in lieu of a second Navy Unit Commendation for demonstrating "... for the first time the ability of submarines to operate in and under the Arctic ice in the dead of winter . . ." In the fall of 1959 and in 1960, Skate participated in exercises that were designed to strengthen American antisubmarine defenses. 

Skate returned to General Dynamics Corp. in January 1961 for a regular overhaul and to have her reactor refueled for the first time. She put to sea in August and, for the next 11 months, conducted exercises to increase the operational readiness of her crew. 

On 7 July 1962, Skate again pointed her bow toward the North Pole. Five days later, Seadragon (SSN-584), based in Pearl Harbor, Hi., did likewise. The mission of the two submarines was to rendezvous under the ice there. They began rendezvous procedures on 31 July. After the historic meeting, the two ships operated together for over a week. Both submarines surfaced at the North Pole on 2 August and official greetings and insignia of the Submarine Forces, Atlantic Fleet and Pacific Fleet, were exchanged.


Skate displays a slim but robust profile as she breaks through the ice at the North Pole, 2 August 1962. (U.S. Navy Photograph K-27199, Skate (SSN-578), Ships History, Naval History and Heritage Command)
Caption: Skate displays a slim but robust profile as she breaks through the ice at the North Pole, 2 August 1962. (U.S. Navy Photograph K-27199, Skate (SSN-578), Ships History, Naval History and Heritage Command)


Crewmen from the attack submarine explore the frigid Arctic landscape, 2 August 1962. (Skate (SSN-578), Ships History, Naval History and Heritage Command)
Caption: Crewmen from the attack submarine explore the frigid Arctic landscape, 2 August 1962. (Skate (SSN-578), Ships History, Naval History and Heritage Command)


Skate (in the foreground) and Seadragon (SSN-584) (in the background) work together at the North Pole, 2 August 1962. (Arthur Malloy, U.S. Navy Photograph K-27057, Skate (SSN-578), Ships History, Naval History and Heritage Command)
Caption: Skate (in the foreground) and Seadragon (SSN-584) (in the background) work together at the North Pole, 2 August 1962. (Arthur Malloy, U.S. Navy Photograph K-27057, Skate (SSN-578), Ships History, Naval History and Heritage Command)

Skate returned to New London and performed fleet and local operations for the next several years. She entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Va., on 28 April 1965, for an overhaul and installation of the SUBSAFE package, and remained there until September 1967. Skate was the first submarine to finish this major conversion program which was instituted after the loss of Thresher (SSN-593) in 1963. After sea trials and a shakedown cruise in the Caribbean, the submarine returned to New London and participated in exercises involved in the development of new undersea tactics and equipment. 

In October 1968, Skate was deployed to the Mediterranean where she operated with the 6th Fleet for two months. The polar veteran operated under Arctic ice again in March and April of 1969, in October of 1970, and in February 1971. The remainder of her at sea time was spent in various Atlantic Fleet and NATO exercises. In July of 1971, Skate began her third regular overhaul at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and did not return to New London until 17 November 1973. 

Skate was stricken and decommissioned on 30 October 1986. 

Detailed history pending. 

Updated by Mark L. Evans
13 November 2017

Published: Mon Nov 13 08:59:21 EST 2017