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History of the CGC BEAR

Past and Present

The present day BEAR was named after the USRC BEAR (AG-29). The original BEAR (AG-29) was a steam barkentine, 199 feet overall in length, of heavy oak construction, powered by a compound recropcating steam engine which produced 300 horsepower.


Built in Scotland in 1847, the BEAR served 10 years in the seal hunts in the Canadian Arctic. In 1884, BEAR was purchased by the U.S. Government to rescue the survivors of the Greely Expedition. In 1886, the BEAR was transferred to the Treasury Department for use in the U.S. Revenue Marine's Alaskan Patrol. BEAR served in the capacity for the next forty one years and became a legend in the lusty, brawling, new territory of Alaska. The BEAR embodied the concept of the muti-mission ship by rescuing shipwrecked mariners, breaking ice, enforcing fisheries laws, carrying mail, making hydrogaphic surveys, and often carrying a U.S. judge who held court and dispensed territorial justice. It was also from the decks of the BEAR that reindeer were introduced to Alaska.

BEAR's most dramatic rescue was the “Overland Expedition” which was launched in the winter of 1897 to bring relief to Alaska whalers frozen in the ice off Point Barrow. Stopped by ice and storms, BEAR put ashore a party of crew members headed by LT D.H. Jarvis. The party made an epic dog sled trek over 1600 miles of frozen Arctic wilderness to Point Barrow driving a herd of reindeer, ahead of them. They arrived in time to save the survivors of eight trapped vessels from almost certain starvation and provide shelter and medical attention until BEAR was able to break through the ice and lead them out.

Bear Pre-Commissioning

The keel of the present-day BEAR was laid on August 23, 1979, launched on September 25, 1980, and formally commissioned on February 4, 1983. She is the first of thirteen “Famous Class” 270-foot medium endurance cutters. During any given patrol, BEAR conducts a wide-spectrum of missions such as search and rescue, alien migrant interdiction operations, counter-drug patrols, fisheries enforcement, and international engagement -- illustrating the versatile, multi-mission character of the Coast Guard and the cutter fleet. Since her commissioning she has made 20 significant drug seizures involving 12 marijuana and 8 cocaine busts.


Bear celebrated her 25th anniversary underway on patrol in the Caribbean on a counter drug mission. Like her namesake, the present day BEAR is continuing to make history. Each patrol is another chapter in her legacy of “Serving The Present To Honor The Past.”

Last Modified 9/19/2013