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Mr. Paul May of Valdez has graciously donated an artifact of true historic significance: the nautical steering wheel from the U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear, which has a long and storied history.
The Bear was crafted as a seal-hunting vessel in Scotland in 1874, and outfitted as an ice-breaking vessel in 1884. From 1885 to 1926, the Bear would make a round trip of 10,000 nautical miles from its home port in Oakland, patrolling Alaskan coastal waters where she looked out for shipwrecked whalers, ferried reindeer from Siberia to Alaska, and served as a floating courthouse. The United States Department of the Treasury gave the Bear free run to arrest and seize possessions of poachers, smugglers, and illegal traders, as well as take census of people and ships, record geological and astronomical information, take note of tides, and escort whaling ships.
One notable mission of the Bear was the apprehension of Japanese seal poachers in 1908; the poachers were brought into Valdez, seat of the Third Judicial District, to stand trial.
Thanks to Mr. May for adding this treasured item to our collection!