New film chronicles the life, death and resurrection of historic ship
Once Upon A Nuclear Ship, a new documentary by filmmaker Thomas Michael Conner, tells the story of the NS Savannah the world’s only nuclear powered merchant ship that was once the diamond in the crown of the US merchant fleet.
Imagined by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955 and built by the New York Shipbuilding Corp in Camden NJ from 1957 to 1962, the Savannah sailed the oceans of the world for 9 years before being taken out of service in 1971. In her brief lifetime she visited 77 ports of call hosting 1.5 million visitors and proved that a nuclear powered merchant ship carrying cargo and passengers was a viable option to smokestacks spewing soot and other contaminants into the air and laid the groundwork for a future that never came to be.
It’s a story best told by the men who “were there when it happened” and although many of these pioneering seamen have sailed into the sunset, Conner tracked down some key players and let them tell the story in their own words. It’s a story he too knows well because he was a member of the health physics (radiation protection) staff and was there from the day the reactor split it’s first atom then sailed on the ship until the end of 1964. The NS Savannah was the only merchant ship requiring a special department for the assessment of radiological hazards.
Photo: The Savannah at Pier 13 in Baltimore in 2012
Once Upon A Nuclear Ship follows the Savannah through all of her trials and tribulations from the keel laying to her decommissioning and abandonment to her resurrection in 2006.
Today, the NS Savannah sits beside a dock in Baltimore MD while a small group of passionate people led by Erhard Kohler and Jon Stouky of the US Maritime Administration are busy preserving the history and technological know how that produced the Savannah in the first place. Stouky like Conner was involved with the Savannah since the New York Ship days in Camden and is currently the project’s Nuclear Advisor. Future plans include using the ship as a Maritime Museum.
NS Savannah passing under the Golden Gate Bridge
Once Upon A Nuclear Ship is being released on DVD through TCL Communications, Inc and is available on it’s own website http://nssavannahdocumentary.com. Future plans include making it available via download or streaming.