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The nautilus or chambered nautilus is a sea animal. It is a cephalopod, like the squid, octopus, and cuttlefish. It grows a large, beautiful spiral shell. The shell is lined with glistening mother-of-pearl. As it grows, it builds partitions which divide the shell into chambers; it lives in the outermost partition. These shells were common decorations in Victorian England and the United States.

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote a famous poem entitled "The Chambered Nautilus." In this poem, he admires the "ship of pearl" and the "silent toil/That spread his lustrous coil/Still, as the spiral grew/He left the past year's dwelling for the new." He concludes with the hope that just as the nautilus shell grows larger in physical dimensions, his own soul will grow in spiritual dimensions:

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul.

Many ships, particularly submarines, have been named "the Nautilus." Three famous ones are:

  • Robert Fulton's 1800 Nautilus, the first submarine that actually worked;
  • Captain Nemo's fictional submarine in the 1870 Jules Verne novel Vingt Mille Lieues sous les Mers ("Twenty thousand Leagues Under the Sea")
  • The first nuclear submarine, the 1951 USS Nautilus