The present day BEAR was named after the USRC BEAR (AG-29). The original BEAR (AG-29) was a steam barquentine, 199 feet overall in length, of heavy oak construction, powered by a compound reciprocating 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 this 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 multi-mission ship by rescuing shipwrecked mariners, breaking ice, enforcing fisheries laws, carrying mail, making hydrographic 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 crewmembers headed by LT D.H. Jarvis. The party made an epic dog sled trek over 1,600 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.
The keel of the present-day BEAR was laid on August 23, 1979, and the cutter was launched on September 25, 1980 and then formally commissioned on February 4, 1983. BEAR is the first of thirteen Famous Class 270-foot medium endurance cutters. BEAR is capable of conducting several different missions, including search and rescue, alien migrant interdiction, counterdrug, fisheries enforcement, and international engagement -- illustrating the versatile, multi-mission character of the Coast Guard and the cutter fleet.
BEAR celebrated both its 25th and 30th anniversaries underway on counterdrug patrols in the Caribbean Sea, and its 35th anniversary on a counterdrug patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.