Actually, this really did happen, in Seattle, on June 3, 1958. But first I have to tell you a little bit about the U.S.S. Nautilus (SSN-571). It was the world's first nuclear powered submarine, launched on January 21, 1954 in Groton, Connecticut when then First Lady, Mamie Eisenhower belted her in her bow with the traditional bottle of champagne. From then on, the Nautilus shattered all submerged speed and distance records.
What is remarkable about a nuclear submarine is that it is capable of remaining under water without the necessity of surfacing to recharge the batteries and without refueling. When I found that out, I was fascinated. But wait, there's even something far more fascinating...to come.
Now the Nautilus was active during the Cold War and the Navy was looking at the strategic and military importance of the Arctic Ocean. The Arctic is covered with ice all year around so ships can't sail across it. But a nuclear submarine can navigate under the ice and stay there as long as she wants. So that's why the Navy developed a top secret mission called, "Operation Sunshine." The mission was for the Nautilus to cross the North Pole, submerged. The operation was scheduled for mid-summer of 1958. But first,and I don't know the real reason for this, the Nautilus made a stop in Seattle, with her crew of 116 men and a whole bunch of dignitaries, and journalists.
Now here's the fascinating and true story you've been waiting for. While docked at Pier 91 in Seattle, members of the crew discovered a leak in the condenser system! The time factor and security concerns precluded repairs on the Nautilus through the usual channels. So someone on the sub came up with the idea of using Bar's Leaks (an automotive radiator stop-leak product). The commander of the ship, William Anderson, ordered a number of crewmen to change into civilian clothes and get into a bunch of taxicabs and hit all the gas stations in Seattle they could find and buy up all the Bar's Leak they could get. Later that evening, all the shoppers returned to the ship with a 140 quarts of the stuff. But it only took 70 quarts to stop the leak.
Well, the rest is naval and military history. Later that summer, the U.S.S. Nautilus successfully crossed the North Pole, completely under water. The event received world-wide publicity and the crew got a tickertape parade in New York City. None of the automobiles in the parade developed a leak; but if one did, the sailors were prepared, I'll bet.
The condenser unit on the Nautilus never leaked again; thanks to Bar's Leak.
This is a true story. A little known fact about a well known sub. You can read about it in Commander William Anderson's book, "Nautilus 90 North." And you can visit the U.S.S. Nautilus at the U.S. Navy Submarine Force Museum at Groton, Connecticut. And while you're there, don't forget to pick up a bottle of stop leak in the Gift Store.