The wreck of a legendary American naval ship has been found that served in two world wars, conducted patrols in waters off Alaska for decades, and was at one point captained by the first black man to command a government ship.
A wreck believed to be the USS Bear, which sank in 1963 about 260 miles (418 km) east of Boston while being towed to Philadelphia, where it would become a floating restaurant, was located in 2019.
But it was only in August this year that a team of experts looking at the evidence concluded that they are “reasonably certain” that the wreck is indeed the bear, US Coast Guard officials said. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. at a waterfront press conference in Boston.
“At the time of Bear’s loss, it was already recognized as a historic ship,” said Joe Hoyt of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.
The legend of the bear is so ingrained in Coast Guard tradition that sports teams at the Connecticut Coast Guard Academy are called Bears, in part in honor of the vessel.
Built in Dundee in 1874, the steam and sail Bear was purchased by the US in 1884 to take part in the search for the ill-fated Arctic expedition led by Lieutenant Adolphus Greely, a member of the US Army Signal Corps. .
The 190-foot (58 m) bear spent more than four decades patrolling the Arctic, conducting search and rescue operations, law enforcement, conducting surveys of people and ships, recording geological and astronomical information, recording tides, and escorting whaling ships.
The US Revenue Service merged with the US Salvage Service in 1915 to form the Coast Guard.
“During Bear’s 40-year career in Alaska, the cutter made some of the most daring and successful Arctic rescues in history,” said William Thiesen, Coast Guard Official Historian for the Atlantic area.
“And when malnourished Native Americans needed food, Bear brought it. When the stranded whalers needed to be rescued, Bear saved them. One hundred years ago, when thousands of Alaskans contracted the Spanish flu during the pandemic, Bear brought in doctors and medicine. “
Thursday’s announcement coincided with the arrival in Boston of US Coast Guard Healy, named after the captain of the Bear from 1886 to 1895, Michael “Hell Roaring Mike” Healy.
The Healy, an icebreaker commissioned in 1999, recently completed a transit of the Northwest Arctic Passage.
Healy, born in 1839, was the son of a Georgia plantation owner and a slave. Healy’s father sent him to Massachusetts to escape slavery, Thiesen said.
He compared the Healy, commissioned by Abraham Lincoln a month before the president’s assassination, to a sheriff from the Old West, whose jurisdiction was an area the size of the lower 48 states.
While he never, in his life, identified himself as African American, perhaps to avoid the prejudice he likely would have encountered in his personal life and career, he was actually the first person of African American descent to command a Government ship. of the United States, ”said NOAA.
Even after his time in the Arctic ended, Bear’s career continued.
The ship was in service during both world wars, patrolling Greenlandic waters in World War II and helping to capture a German spy ship.
Between the wars, the Bear was repurposed as a maritime museum by the city of Oakland, California; used as a movie set; and purchased by Admiral Richard Byrd for use on his Antarctic expeditions.
The ship was decommissioned in 1944 and remained in Nova Scotia until its trip to Philadelphia ended prematurely in 1963 about 90 miles south of Cape Sable, Nova Scotia, according to NOAA.
“Bear had worked in various capacities for almost 90 years, a remarkable record for a ship built of wood,” Thiesen said.