USS Canisteo (AO-99)

Eastern Group
Capt. Edward K. Walker, USN

Official USS CANISTEO Stationery Letterhead

John "Jack" Morris

.A Young Man's Journey to the Antarctic


Way back when, in the spring of 1946, I was about to be drafted into the US Army. So, on the same day I graduated from high school I joined the US Navy. One week later I was on my way to Boot Camp in San Diego, California. Upon completion, I was sent on to Norfolk, Virginia where I received my orders to report for duty on the USS CANISTEO. This was about six months prior to Operation Highjump. There were a number of shipmates my age and I made good friends quickly.

While the ship was tied to the dock, I was the Duty Jeep Driver. When anchored in the bay, I was on the Captains Gig, taking ship's officers ashore. When we were underway, I was a Radar Operator (Striker). There were some things I did not like about the navy, but then I was just an 18 year-old kid, fresh out of high school who had never been away from home. However, the part I liked best in the navy was sea duty. I loved being out to sea! It was GREAT!!

I came from a home built on a foundation of love. My father was an ordained minister for the Episcopal Church. I have one brother who is two years older than me. My brother and I remain close to this day. My mother was a housewife and church volunteer. OPERATION HIGHJUMP was my first, last, and only big adventure in my life and I can look back on it with fond memories.

"Free franked" ship's mail sent three weeks before departing on


Canceled upon arrival at Cristobal, Canal Zone

USS CANISTEO in the vicinity of Scott Island


Upon arrival in Antarctic waters, I was amazed at how large the icebergs were. Sonar picked them up at as much as 40+ feet deep in the water!

The curiosity of the penguins on the icebergs was interesting. Once, some of the men took a launch out into the icepacks where they came upon a penguin alone on an iceberg. The men decided to try and catch him, so they circled around him and eventually closed in enough so that one of the guys could tackle him to take back to the ship.

The ship's mascot, "Scamper", had one encounter with the penguin. Scamper, a dog, belonged to one of the sailors. The dog was a pathetic looking stray in Norfolk, VA when brought aboard the ship just prior to departure for the Antarctic. He earned his name because he'd run from focel to stern for his daily exercise. He was a healthy, well-fed "survivor" of the expedition! However, poor Scamper got pecked by the penguin right on the nose and would never get near that bird again!

We kept the penguin in the "spud locker". The penguin would only eat live fish so we could only keep it for a few days. (The navy wanted us working ... not catching fish all day!) When we let him go, he dived under the ship to the other side, then back up again, quacking like a duck at us! He then took off for parts unknown.


"We are now "laying to" . . .

In the vicinity of Scott Island . . .

Easter Service bulletin


At long last, postal history supplies answers to old questions . . .

All previous attempts to track ship movements of the USS CANISTEO following her departure from Rio de Janeiro have ended in frustration. This vessel took a special course on her way back to the States. Thanks to Jack's proliferation of letter writing, as well as special thanks to his parents for saving those letters, we now can fill in the missing details . . .


. . . "As you carried out the Sunday services and gathered around the table for a wonderful dinner, cooked by the best cook in the world, I sweated it out on the radar from 5 A.M. till 1:30 P.M. We were working the ship into position at "Ascension Island". The water is shallow & difficult . . . "


In Rio de Janeiro

Having left Rio, the ship arrives at Ascension Island on Sunday, March 30th, 1947


and on Sunday, April 18th, they arrive in Trinidad . . .

My life on the USS CANISTEO ended on April 14th, 1947, when we were in Trinidad. They flew me and three others back to Norfolk, VA where we were sent to Radar School.

I graduated from Radar School and received orders for duty on the USS BURKE (APD 65). I was a Radar (RDM 3rd) Operator until I was discharged.

After the navy, I went to college for two years, then got married in July, 1950. We were blessed with two children, a son and a daughter. My wife died in 1999, just after I had a stroke. I am currently living in Texas, near to my daughter.

Jack wrote often ... family and faith was his foundation.




In hopes of keeping these important stories alive . . .

A special message from Linda


All my life I grew up hearing stories of OPERATION HIGHJUMP. I began to "see" the Antarctic through my father's eyes. He was an entertaining storyteller. So many of his stories could not be transferred to his document due to space, time and the simple truth that some of them my father was too embarrassed to share! He was able to save a tremendous amount of his seaman's mail, many newspaper clippings from his hometown newspaper, a treasured photo album of the expedition (courtesy of the US Navy), as well as personal pictures taken throughout his "navy days". All of these items I do treasure as not only a piece of our nation's history, but as a tribute to my father and the many other young sailors who somewhat naively took part in this expedition. Certainly, I am proud that my father kept his stories alive for us and was willing to share them in this format.

It is my hope that future generations can learn of this great expedition and the men who took part in it. It is amazing and humbling to know that this expedition took place just as World War II had ended. Due to the great efforts of the Webmaster to maintain this site, the history and stories surrounding OPERATION HIGHJUMP can be preserved. Quite sadly, Admiral Byrd and OPERATION HIGHJUMP have barely, if at all, been mentioned in our children's history textbooks (Note: Linda is a schoolteacher).

Let us, the families of the men of OPERATION HIGHJUMP, work hard to preserve this almost forgotten piece of history.

Linda Morris
Daughter of John H. Morris (USN RDM 3rd, 1948)


FROM THE WEBMASTER: Linda is quite correct ... it is incumbent upon all of us to keep these stories and memories alive for all generations that follow! My sincere thanks and appreciation goes to John Morris and daughter Linda for sharing the material presented here. It saddens me to report the passing of Jack Morris on June 2, 2002.