After nearly two decades of searching, NOAA Ocean Exploration, the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries' Maritime Heritage Program, the U.S. Coast Guard and a number of academic research partners have located with “reasonable certainty” the final resting place of U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear, 145 kilometres due south of Cape Sable, Nova Scotia. Having served for nearly 80 years, including in the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, the U.S. Navy and as a ship of exploration in the Antarctic, Bear is considered one of the most historically significant ships in U.S. history for its long and meritorious service.
Since the late 1970s, various researchers have been searching for the final resting place of the storied U.S. Revenue Cutter (USRC) Bear (see Search for the Bear, 1979-2019). Building on this work and conducting extensive background research on the ship and its long history, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries’ Maritime Heritage Program and NOAA Ocean Exploration forged a partnership to continue the search, employing advanced underwater technology.
ROV-equipped Buoy Tender
In 2019, working off the USCG’s medium-endurance cutter Bear (named after the USRC Bear), 100 square kilometres of seabed was mapped and two targets for further exploration were found. One target in particular was very promising as it was in the proximity of the last known position of Bear when it was lost at sea in 1973, and it appeared to roughly match the dimensions of the ship (see Mission Summary).
In 2021, USCG and NOAA researchers went back to sea on the USCG’s ocean-going buoy tender Sycamore (see Expedition Summary), this time with an advanced remotely operated vehicle (ROV) equipped with high-resolution underwater video cameras and skilled and experienced operators from Marine Imaging Technologies to document the “unidentified wreck” found in 2019. While the operational conditions encountered at the site were challenging (see Holding Position), the team was able to collect video and still images sufficient to provide the documentation needed to identify the wreck.
A team of experienced historians and archaeologists from the partner agencies was enlisted to review this data and information and came to the consensus that they are “reasonably certain” that the “unidentified wreck” is indeed U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear.