Paul Grisham’s wallet was missing for so long at the bottom of the world he forgot all about it. Fifty-three years later the 91-year-old San Diego man has it back along with mementoes of his 13-month assignment as a US navy meteorologist on Antarctica in the 1960s.
“I was just blown away,” Grisham told the San Diego Union-Tribune after the wallet was returned on Saturday. “There was a long series of people involved who tracked me down and ran me to ground.”
The wallet contained his navy ID card, driving licence, a pocket reference card on what to do during atomic, biological and chemical attack, a beer ration punch card, a tax withholding statement and receipts for money orders sent to his wife.
Grisham, who was raised in Douglas, Arizona, enlisted in the navy in 1948. He became a weather technician and then a weather forecaster. In 1967 he was sent to Antarctica as part of Operation Deep Freeze, which supported civilian scientists. At the time he was in his 30s and married with two toddlers.
“I went down there kicking and screaming,” he told the Union-Tribune. At some point he lost the wallet, something he later forgot about. It was found behind a locker in 2014 during demolition of a building at McMurdo station on Ross Island. But finding its owner still took emails, Facebook messages and letters exchanged among a group of amateur sleuths.
Stephen Decato and his daughter Sarah Lindbergh, both of New Hampshire, and Bruce McKee of the Indiana Spirit of ’45 nonprofit foundation had previously worked to return a navy service ID bracelet to its owner. Decato had also worked for an agency that does research in Antarctica. His former boss, George Blaisdell, heard about the bracelet episode and decided to send Decato two wallets found during the McMurdo demolition. Lindbergh found Grisham through the Naval Weather Service Association. The second wallet was returned to the family of a man who died in 2016.
Grisham told the Union-Tribune it is hard to grasp the vastness and remoteness of Antarctica. A luxury was a daily after-work martini, and once a week he contacted his wife, Wilma, by voice relay through shortwave radio operators. Grisham retired from the navy in 1977.