When Paul Grisham returned home to California from Antarctica in 1968, he left one thing back on “The Ice,” as he called the continent: a brown wallet, which held his Navy ID, driver’s license, beer ration punch card, a recipe for homemade Kahlua, and a card with instructions on what to do in case of a chemical weapons attack.
Last week, the battered wallet made its way back to Grisham, a former Navy meteorologist who spent 13 months in Antarctica as part of Operation Deep Freeze. Now 91, Grisham said he actually forgot that he lost his wallet while serving, but does remember other aspects about his time in Antarctica. During the coldest months, the temperature would plummet to -65 degrees, and because supplies couldn’t be dropped off due to the ice, everyone had to eat canned food. Some of the only entertainment was at a two-lane bowling alley, and shortwave operators had to help people communicate with loved ones back home.
In 2014, a building at McMurdo Station, the southernmost town on Earth, was demolished, and during the process Grisham’s wallet were found behind a locker. It made its way to Stephen Decato and Sarah Lindbergh, a father and daughter in New Hampshire who try to track down service members to reunite them with their lost belongings. They got in touch with Bruce McKee of the nonprofit organization Spirit of ’45, who in turn contacted the Naval Weather Service Association, of which Grisham is a member.
“I have a deep love for those that serve and their stories,” McKee told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Something such as an old wallet can mean so much to someone with the memories that item holds.” Grisham was amazed that so many people worked together to get the wallet to its rightful owner, saying he was “blown away” by their detective work. Catherine Garcia