On Oct. 14, the U.S. Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) revealed that they discovered the long-missing shipwreck of the “legendary” U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear.
For those who aren’t familiar with it, the U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear (Bear) is one of the most “historically significant ships in U.S. history,” according to a recent Twitter post from NOAA. The organization also wrote up an entire article about it here, on their website, where they detail how they discovered the long-lost ship.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Coast Guard and NOAA used a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to search a 62-mile area of sea that they discovered in 2019. The new technology used “high-resolution underwater video cameras and skilled and experienced operators from Marine Imaging Technologies to document the ‘unidentified wreck'” found two years ago.
They discovered the wreck 90 miles south of Cape Sable, Nova Scotia, close to the Bear’s last known location.
Several details from the wreck matched up to details about the Bear, including the forefoot, bow construction, bow planking, sheathing, and potentially a drive shaft. The dimensions of the shop are also fairly similar, with the original Bear ship measuring 190 feet from bow to stern and the shipwreck measuring 177 feet. Experts say pieces of the back half of the ship likely got dragged away in fishing nets.
The U.S. Coast Guard and NOAA research team eventually concluded that they were “reasonably certain” the unknown wreck was actually the U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear.
Why Did the U.S. Coast Guard Search for This ‘Historically Signifcant’ Boat?
The U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear has belonged to U.S. Coast Guard lore for decades. The ship served the country for almost 80 years, in both World Wars and on Arctic expeditions.
Per the NOAA article, she was built in 1874 in Scotland as a sealer. Ten years later, the U.S. government bought out the Bear. She first helped out in the 1884 Greely Expedition to the Arctic, rescuing the few survivors of the doomed trip. A year later, the Treasury Department used her as a Revenue Cutter, where she spent 41 years patrolling the Arctic.
Between 1886 and 1896, the first African-American man to captain a U.S. governmental ship took the helm of the Bear. His name was “Hell Roaring” Mike Healy, and the U.S. Coast Guard recently named a Cutter ship after him.
Bear served in both World Wars for the U.S. Navy. She also helped with relief efforts during the 1919 Spanish Flu epidemic. She took a temporary break in 1929 to become a movie set and maritime museum in Oakland, California. But soon Admiral Richard Byrd acquired her for an Antarctic patrol between 1933 and 1935.
During WWII, Bear patrolled near Greenland and even captured a German trawler called Buskoe. By 1944, the government officially decommissioned her and sold her to a Canadian steamship company in 1948. But the company went under, leaving Bear just sitting in the waters of Nova Scotia.
An entrepreneur from Pennsylvania bought her in 1963 and wanted to convert Bear into a museum and waterfront restaurant in Philadelphia. But en route from Nova Scotia to Philly, she disappeared. Now, experts claim to have found her again close to where she was last seen.