USS Bear was originally built for use as a sealing ship by a commercial shipyard in Scotland. After a decade of service in that venture, Bear was purchased by the US Navy in 1884 as part of a plan to rescue the Greely Expedition in northern Canada. The Greely scientific expedition was run by the Army Signal Corps and had been in the Arctic since 1881. Through a mixture of poor planning, mishaps, and lack of funding, however, by 1884 there was a dire need for rescue of the expedition as the men starved through the fall of 1883 and the first half of 1884. Of course, the extent of this was not known until later, but it was known that Greely's team would definitely need supplies and transport in the summer of 1884.
Ships of the Greely Relief Expedition in Greenland, 1884. Left to Right: USS Alert, USS Bear, and USS Thetis.
|Rescuers and survivors of the Greely Expedition. Commander Winfield Schley is marked "1". First Lieutenant Adolphus Greely is seated next to him (marked as "22") . The other survivors are seated in the foreground.|
|USS Bear in 1884 (left) and 1939 (right). Note the airplane onboard in the right photograph.|