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USS Bear (AG-29) on 2 July 1941.
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Class: BEAR (AG-29)
Design: Sealing vessel, 1874
Displacement (tons): 1,267 light, 1,280 std.
Dimensions (feet): 198.5' oa, 175.5' pp x 29.75' e x 17.5'
Original Armament: Machine guns (1941)
Later armaments: 2-20mm (1943)
Speed (kts.): 8
Propulsion (HP):  --
Machinery: Atlas diesel, 1 screw
||11 Sep 39
||Alex Stephen & Sons
||19 Jan 74
||11 Sep 39
||17 May 44
||9 Jun 44
||13 Feb 48
||13 Feb 48
FY 1942. BEAR was built by Alex Stephen & Son of Dundee, Scotland, for the sealing trade. She was a sail barkentine with a 500 hp auxiliary steam engine. Her unusually heavily built wooden hull suited her for operations in the ice. She was purchased by the Navy on 28 Jan 1884 for use in the Greely relief expedition -- a period of service that is covered on a separate page. Transferred from the Navy to the Treasury Department on 3 Mar 1885, she had a long and distinguished career in the Revenue Cutter Service and its successor, the U.S. Coast Guard until being decommissioned on 3 May 29 at Oakland, Calif., where she became a city marine museum. When Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd came in search of a staunch ship for his second Antarctic expedition, Oakland offered BEAR, which Byrd renamed BEAR OF OAKLAND in gratitude. The ship was refitted for the expedition at the Boston Navy Yard, left Boston for the Antarctic on 28 Sep 33, and returned to Boston on 16 May 35. There, in preparation for another exploring voyage, she was converted by Rear Admiral Byrd at the Atlantic Shipyard to diesel propulsion and her auxiliary equipment was electrified. She was also fitted to carry a small Barkley-Grow seaplane on deck aft.
On 11 Sep 39 the Navy chartered BEAR and placed her in commission. On 22 Nov 39 BEAR departed Boston for the Antarctic, a week after her consort, NORTH STAR (later IX-148, q.v.) sailed. BEAR arrived at the Bay of Whales, Antarctica, on 14 Jan 40, two days after NORTH STAR. BEAR returned to Philadelphia on 5 Jun 40 and then conducted another Antarctic expedition between 10 Oct 40 and 18 May 41. On 24 Apr 41 CNO wrote to Rear Admiral Byrd, noting that the Navy had an urgent need for ships capable of operating in northern latitudes and in heavy ice and that BEAR fulfilled these requirements, and asking if it would be possible for the Navy to acquire the ship after her return from Antarctica by gift, purchase, or charter. On 14 Nov 41 the Auxiliary Vessels Board noted that BEAR, then under bare boat charter to the Navy, had been offered to the Navy for sale. In view of the continuing and necessary services performed by this ship and that it was the only vessel available and equipped for such duty, the Board recommended purchasing her. CNO implemented this recommendation on 22 Nov 41 and the ship was purchased from Admiral Byrd on 31 Dec 41. She served on the Northeast Greenland Patrol until returning to Boston on 15 Nov 43. The venerable ship was decommissioned at the Boston Navy Yard on 17 May 44 and was transferred to the MC on 13 Feb 48 when that agency delivered her to her buyer, Frank W. Shaw of Montreal, Quebec.
BEAR returned to the sealing trade and operated as ARCTIC SEALER from 1948 to 1956. She was renamed BEAR in 1959 and her engine was removed. In 1962 she was drydocked in Nova Scotia and then rigged as a three-masted barkentine in preparation for being towed to Philadelphia, where she was to be converted into a floating restaurant and marine museum at Philadelphia. However she foundered on 19 Mar 63 when she was caught by a severe Atlantic storm while under tow from Halifax to Boston.
||Ex BEAR OF OAKLAND, ex BEAR. Sold (delivered) by MC to Frank W. Shaw, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Merc. ARCTIC SEALER 1948. Sank under tow 19 Mar 63.
Compiled: 07 Sep 2009
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2009