SS Bear, c.1939 1The Bear of Oakland, aka the SS Bear (1874–1963), was a wooden-hulled, dual-powered steam schooner with a long and storied history.

Built in Scotland as a Canadian sealing ship, the Bear’s copper-sheathed wooden hull had special bracing to withstand the crush of pack ice, and an iron-clad prow. 2

Over the years the Bear served with the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service (predecessor of the U.S. Coast Guard), the Coast Guard, and the U.S. Navy. She even performed rescue missions when she happened to be in port after the 1906 earthquake. 1

In 1926, she was laid up in Oakland, and in 1928 transferred to the city for use as a museum ship. The Bear stood in for the sealer Macedonia in the 1930 film version of Jack London’s The Sea-Wolf. 1

In 1932, Admiral Byrd purchased the Bear for an expedition to Antarctica 2 and renamed the ship Bear of Oakland. The Bear was given a sendoff by Mayor Morcom, the city council, and a crowd of onlookers when she sailed for Boston for further refitting. 3

Her active career ended in 1948. Various locations, including Oakland, were considered to turn the Bear back into a museum, but in 1962 she was sold to be used as a floating restaurant. On March 19, 1963, while being towed to Philadelphia, the Bear sank during a gale in the north Atlantic.

The wreckage of the Bear was found in 2021 by a NOAA Ocean Exploration expedition. 5

June 1918 4Oakland Tribune June 19, 1932 3

Byrd expedition returning to Washington, D.C., May 10, 1935 6

Links and References

Salt Lake Tribune June 8, 1932

  1. USS Bear (1874) on Wikipedia
  2. Historic Cutter Bear Will Carry Byrd to Antarctic Oakland Tribune June 5, 1932
  3. Oakland Wishes Godspeed As Cutter Bear Sets Sail Oakland Tribune June 19, 1932
  4. BANC PIC 1996.003:Volume 30:180--fALBI0052320a.tif Courtesy UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library

  5. We Found U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear! NOAA Ocean Exploration

  6. 111-SC-101993 National Archives