Shipboard Inertial Navigational System Bedplate from the USS Compass Island, AG-153
Compass Island (EAG-153) was launched October 24,1953 as the "Garden Mariner" by New York Shipbuilding Corp., Camden, N.J.; sponsored by Mrs. H. A. Smith. It was acquired by the Navy 29 March 1956; and commissioned 3 December 1956, Commander J. A. Dare in command.
The first mission of Compass Island was to assist in the development and evaluation of a navigation system independent of shore-based and celestial aids, a necessary adjunct of the ballistic missile program. She operated along the eastern seaboard testing equipment and training personnel until 13 March 1958 when she sailed from New York for experiments in the Mediterranean, returning to New York 17 April to resume her east coast operations. A dramatic example of her work was provided when Nautilus ( SSN-571 ), using the Shipboard Inertial Navigational System tested by Compass Island, made a submerged cruise beneath the Arctic ice pack touching exactly at the North Pole 3 August 1958. On 10 September 1958 Compass Island entered New York Naval Shipyard for overhaul and installation of additional navigational equipment to be tested. With this new equipment, she continued her east coast and Caribbean cruising through 1960.
On January 25, 1980, as part of its phase-down operations, the "Compass Island" completed operational support as a navigation test ship for the Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) Program. Its role would be assumed by the USNS Vanguard (TAGM-19). On May 1st of 1980, the "Compass Island" was decommissioned. She was held in reserve until 1993, when she was transferred to the James River Reserve Fleet in Virginia until the direction of the Maritime Administration. In 2003, she was sent to England for scrapping.