Discovery of Historic Cutter

          BEAR  (1874-1963)




U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office
2703 Martin Luther King, Jr., Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20593-7031

U.S. Coast Guard Museum
Coast Guard Academy - Waesche Hall
15 Mohegan Ave
New London, CT 06320-8100

Contacting us:  U.S.C.G. Historian's Office

Through over five decades of US government service, the venerable vessel BEAR was repeatedly summoned to sail through frontiers and change the course of history for those in its wake. After ten years serving as a private sealer, BEAR was purchased by the US Navy to rescue the survivors of the Adolphus Greely Expedition in 1884, and was the first vessel to locate the remainder of the famine-ravaged party. Transferred to the Revenue Cutter Service and under the command of Captain "Hell-Roaring" Mike Healy, BEAR introduced Siberian reindeer to Alaska in 1891 broadening food resources for native hunters. In 1898, BEAR rescued 265 whaling sailors stuck in the ice north of Point Barrow, Alaska, concluding the historically-overshadowed - Overland Relief Expedition. BEAR also served in both World Wars, and sailed as flagship under command of Navy Adm. Richard E. Byrd in multiple expeditions to Antarctica in between.  This widely voyaging vessel even served center stage on the silver screen adaptation of Jack London’s Sea Wolf in 1930. 

During a chilly northern Atlantic week in June 2021 aboard Coast Guard Cutter SYCAMORE, a NOAA team fortified by representatives of the CG Historian's office, concluded the collaborative 42-year search for the iconic Revenue Cutter, Coast Guard Cutter, and Naval vessel BEAR. By 1963, the screw steamer had returned to private hands for nearly two decades and was being prepared for its final mooring on the Philadelphia waterfront. While being towed from Halifax, Nova Scotia, on March 19, however, the tow cable snapped letting loose the vessel in a galing storm, and it soon came to rest somewhere off the New England coast. Images taken from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s ROV PIXEL provided the evidence positively identifying the bottom-resting wreck as the once indomitable BEAR. Lying keel-up, the aged wooden steamer exposed the tell-tale sign of its identity; the unmistakable repair work on its prow. 

As we salute the team who discovered this historic vessel, we also pay homage to the thousands of enlisted and officers that walked it's decks, making the missions and aspirations of a our nation a reality, whether bringing medical aid to pandemic-ravaged populations in remote Alaska, providing succor to victims of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1905, exploring the then-largely unknown southern continent of Antarctica in the 1930s, or rescuing stationed scientific personnel there on the eve of World War, or plying the waters of the Allies' Greenland Patrol. 

To learn more about the modern search for this historic vessel, explore the stories of the Coast Guard’s historic pride, or discover yet untold stories, please visit the links provided below. 

USCG HH-52 "Love Ma'chine" aboard aboard USCGC Alert off Nassau, Bahamas, March, 1981.
220811-G-G0000-1003.JPG Photo By: CAPT Larry Hall, USCG (Ret.) & U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office

Aug 12, 2022
USCGC Alert - I've attached a few photos of my proudest CG art project, done during a March 1981 Caribbean LE deployment aboard CGC ALERT. AM2 Dave Moynihan found some purple ball fringe while we did a Key West port call on the way down. AvDet OIC LT Larry "Bright Idea Fairy" Hall immediately came up with a low-rider conversion project for our H-52 (hey, we were there from Brooklyn, after all...), which Dave magnificently executed. Note the fringed windows and chin bubbles. The newly minted "Love Ma'chine" (pronounced with a hard "ch" and our callsign for the remainder of the deployment) was a huge morale booster for ALERT's crew, and we made a 7-ton marijuana bust in the Yucatan Channel based on our initial airborne sighting of the smuggler's vessel. I gotta think that our helo's name made the difference... In the flight deck takeoff photo, I'm in the left seat, with the big "USCG" on my helmet visor cover. The ball fringe shows up pretty well! When we returned to CGAS Brooklyn, the crew believed that our Aviation Engineering Officer, LCDR Bruce "Don't Screw with My Aircraft" Washburn might look dimly on our decorative project, and asked my permission to remove all evidence. I said, "nope, we're flying Love Ma'chine home in its full glory!" As we pulled into the parking spot on Brooklyn's ramp, Bruce walked out to welcome us home. I could see his jaw drop to the tarmac about 10 yards out, then he actually smiled. The Brooklyn crew was ecstatic, as was our CO, CAPT Bobby Wilks. Photos all around (never made it to Navy Times, though), and our reputation sealed among that generation at the Air Station. We got away with it because we brought the 1391 home in otherwise outstanding condition, which Bruce acknowledged. 3 days later, Bruce put out the word to all pilots and crew - "DON'T EVER DO THAT AGAIN"! CAPT Larry Hall, USCG (Ret.)


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