Nazi spy hunting ship wreck discovered
Oceanographers have located the wreck of the US Revenue Cutter Bear, a ship that served at sea for at least 88 years and was instrumental in the famous capture of a Nazi spy ship.
The bear has a long history: it began working as a commercial seal hunter in 1874. Then, because the ship could pass through ice-filled waters, the government bought it in the 1880s for use. for rescue work in the Arctic. It also served as a relief vessel during the Spanish flu pandemic from 1918-1919, a floating museum, a film set for a Hollywood movie and an expedition ship on Admiral Richard Byrd’s ship Antarctic explorations.
He also patrolled Arctic waters for the US Navy during both World Wars and in 1941 he helped capture the Norwegian trawler Buskø, which was used by the German military intelligence service Abwehr to report weather conditions in the North Atlantic.
Related: Photos: Explore a WWII wreck in virtual reality
The Bear was decommissioned in 1944 and moored at a wharf in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She eventually sank after a storm in 1963, somewhere south of Nova Scotia and east of Boston, while being towed to Philadelphia.
“The bear has had such an incredible history, and it is so important in so many ways in American and world maritime heritage because of its travels,” said Brad Barr, mission coordinator for the maritime heritage program of the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). , who conducted the search for the wreck for several years.
In the late 1970s, a group began to search for bears. It included Harold Edgerton of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who invented side-scan sonar, a technology widely used today to detect and image objects on the seabed.
The group tested the new side-sweeping technology in 1979, but they couldn’t find the wreckage – possibly because the location of its sinking had been misreported by its tug, Barr told Live Science.
A secret Navy submersible – the nuclear-powered NR-1 – conducted a second search in 2007, but it also failed. Finally, the U.S. Coast Guard and NOAA joined forces with other partners and began another search in 2019.
After mapping 62 square miles (160 square kilometers) of seabed with sonar, they identified two submerged objects in the search area.
In September, they returned to a Coast Guard vessel equipped with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to take an underwater video and confirm that the larger object is the wreckage of the Bear, Barr said.
The wreckage now rests on the seabed at a depth of approximately 200 feet (60 meters), in Canadian waters approximately 90 nautical miles (167 km) south of Cape Sable in Nova Scotia. The exact location is being kept confidential in hopes of deterring technical divers from trying to reach it, Barr said. Research partners are discussing with the Canadian government how the wreck can be protected.
The aging wooden hull was badly damaged by trawler nets and strong currents on the seabed. But researchers have identified several distinguishing features of the bear, including the “bow clips” that reinforced its hull to allow the ship to handle thick ice in polar waters, Barr said.
Diesel powered steamship
Although the Bear was fitted with three masts for navigation, she was built as a steamship for her role as a seal hunter in the 1870s. In the 1930s, the boiler was removed and the steam engine replaced by a diesel engine because it was refitted for its Antarctic service with Byrd.
As a result, several piles of metal can be seen among the remaining wood from the wreckage, which includes sailboat tech, Barr said.
Related: In photos: Arctic shipwreck solves 170-year-old mystery
“There is a pile of metal rubble with a dead eye [a fixed wooden pulley] “These eyelets have been around since the 1700s, but they were used on the Bear to attach standing rigging. “
Among the bear’s most famous exploits was his participation in the 1884 Rescue Fleet for the Greely Arctic Expedition, which was lost in 1881 near Ellesmere Island in the northwest. of Greenland. Several members of the expedition died of starvation and disease before the bear rescued Greely and the other survivors.
After serving for many years as a government revenue cutter in Arctic waters – intercepting and inspecting ships at sea and often rescuing commercial vessels trapped in ice – the Bear was transferred to the Navy; he patrolled around Alaska during World War I and delivered supplies there during the Spanish flu pandemic.
In 1929, the decommissioned ship was donated to the city of Oakland, California, where it became a floating museum and then a film set for the 1930 film “The Sea-Wolf”, an adaptation of a novel by Jack London.
The bear was returned to service on Arctic patrols during World War II, when it helped capture the Buskø; but she was mainly moored in Halifax thereafter, until she sank in 1963 on her last voyage to Philadelphia, where she was destined to become a floating restaurant.
“These are incredibly compelling stories,” Barr said. “When you read the details of what the bear did, how many lives he saved, how many amazing missions he did, this is really the kind of story people should be aware of.”
To commemorate his discovery, Barr compiled years of historical research on several articles on the site detailing the many exploits of the bear. “One of the reasons we wanted to find it is because it allows us to tell all these stories,” he said.
Originally posted on Live Science.