The Deep Submergence Vessel NR-1 is a unique US Navy nuclear-powered ocean engineering and research submarine. Casually known as "Nerwin," it was built by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics at Groton, Connecticut. It was launched on 25 January 1969, completed its initial sea trials 19 August 1969, and is homeported at Naval Submarine Base New London. It was never named or commissioned. The United States Navy is allocated a specific number of warships by the U.S. Congress. Not only did Admiral Hyman Rickover not want to "use up" one of those authorizations, but he also wanted to avoid the oversight that a warship receives from various bureaux.
NR-1 is equipped with two electric-motor driven propellers and its maneuverability is enhanced by four ducted thrusters, two in the front and two in the rear. The vehicle has diving planes mounted on the sail, and a conventional rudder.
NR-1's missions have included search, object recovery, geological survey, oceanographic research, and installation and maintenance of underwater equipment. NR-1's unique capability to remain at one site and completely map or search an area with a high degree of accuracy has been a valuable asset on several occasions.
Following the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986, NR-1 was used to search for, identify, and recover critical parts of the Challenger craft. Because it can remain on the sea floor without resurfacing frequently, NR-1 was a major tool for searching deep waters. NR-1 remained submerged and on station even when heavy weather and rough seas hit the area and forced all other search and recovery ships into port.
The NR-1 performs underwater search and recovery, oceanographic research missions and installation and maintenance of underwater equipment, to a depth of almost half a nautical mile. Its features include extendable bottoming wheels, three viewing ports, exterior lighting, television and still cameras for color photographic studies, an object recovery claw, a manipulator that can be fitted with various gripping and cutting tools and a work basket that can be used in conjunction with the manipulator to deposit or recover items in the sea. Surface vision is provided through the use of a television periscope permanently installed on a fixed mast in her sail area.
NR-1 has sophisticated electronics, computers and sonar systems that aid in navigation, communications, and object location and identification. It can maneuver or hold a steady position on or close to the seabed or underwater ridges, detect and identify objects at a considerable distance, and lift objects off the ocean floor.
NR-1 can travel submerged at approximately four knots for long periods, limited only by consumable supplies (primarily food). It can study and map the ocean bottom, including temperature, currents, and other information for military, commercial and scientific uses. Its nuclear propulsion provides independence from surface support ships and essentially unlimited endurance.
NR-1 is generally towed to and from remote mission locations by an accompanying surface tender, which is also capable of conducting research in conjunction with the submarine. NR-1's current mothership is the MV Carolyn Chouest, which provides towing, communications, berthing and direct mission support for all NR-1 operations. An extremely versatile platform, she is an indispensable member of the NR-1 deep submergence team. The NR-1 command is manned with thirty-five Navy personnel and ten civilian contractor personnel. NR-1 itself carries as many as thirteen persons (crew and specialists) at one time, including three of the four assigned officers (the Operations Officer rides on the Carolyn Chouest). All personnel that crew NR-1 are nuclear trained and specifically screened and interviewed by the Director, Navy Nuclear Propulsion Program, Admiral Kirkland H. Donald.
In 1995, Dr. Robert Ballard used the NR-1 and her support ship, the Carolyn Chouest, to explore the wreck of the HMHS Britannic (sister ship of the RMS Titanic) which struck a mine and sank off the coast of Greece while serving as a hospital ship during WWI.
On 25 February 2007, NR-1, towed by Carolyn Chouest, arrived in Galveston, Texas, in preparation for an expedition to survey the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and other sites in the Gulf of Mexico.