The wreck of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear, a ship that hunted Nazi spies in the Arctic, has finally been discovered.
According to Live Science, ocean scientists found the wreck on the seafloor at a depth of about 200 feet (60 meters) in Canadian waters, about 90 nautical miles (167 km) south of Nova Scotia’s Cape Sable.
Brad Barr, the mission coordinator for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Maritime Heritage Program, said that the exact location of the sunken ship is being kept confidential to deter technical divers from trying to reach it.
Barr did not mention how to retrieve the ship but said the search partners are discussing how to protect the wreck with the Canadian government.
Serving at sea for at least 88 years, the U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear has a vast and rich history.
The ship started working as a commercial sealer in 1874 before the government bought it in the 1880s for rescue work in the Arctic, thanks to its capability of travelling through ice-filled waters.
The Bear patrolled Arctic waters for the U.S. Navy in both world wars. In 1941, it helped capture the Norwegian trawler Buskø, which the German military force used to report on weather conditions in the North Atlantic.
It also served as a relief ship during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919, as a floating museum, a film set for a Hollywood movie, and an expedition ship on Admiral Richar Byrd’s Antarctic explorations.
The ship was decommissioned in 1944 and tied up at a wharf in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It finally sank after a storm in 1963, somewhere south of Nova Scotia and east of Boston, as it was being towed to Philadelphia.
“The Bear has had such an incredible history, and it’s so important in many ways in American and global maritime heritage because of its travels,” Barr, who has led the search for the wreck, said.
He told Live Science that the search started in the late 1970s. It included the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Harold Edgerton, who invented side-scan sonar — a technology used to detect and image objects on the seafloor.
The group tested out the side-scan technology in 1979 but did not find the wreck, possibly because the location of its sinking had been misreported.
A second search was conducted in 2007 with the help of a secret Navy submersible — the nuclear-powered NR-1, but it was unsuccessful.
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 seafloor with sonar, they identified two submerged objects in the search area.
In September, they returned on a Coast Guard ship equipped with a remotely operated vehicle to take underwater video and confirm that the largest object is the wreck of the Bear.