The Whanganui-born man behind a mysterious New Zealand naval identification card that was found at the bottom of Pearl Harbour has been discovered alive and well in Auckland.

Nigel Vincent Foster's ID card was recently dredged out of the famous Hawaiian naval base by a contractor and an online campaign was launched to find him.

A photo of the ID card was posted on the Royal New Zealand Navy's community Facebook page as well as several other community pages. It was shared 22,000 times over Facebook.

The Defence Force said Foster's family were tagged in posts and within a day they had made contact with Foster and his wife Lynne, now living in Manurewa.

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Foster said he was amazed his card was still recognisable. He told Defence Force staff the day it went missing was 50 years ago. He said he was 18 years old and working as electrician recruit helping load stores into HMNZS Otago.

The ID that was dredged up from the harbour floor near Pearl Harbour.
The ID that was dredged up from the harbour floor near Pearl Harbour.

"I was helping to load ship supplies, and I took my shirt off because it was a hot day. When I put my shirt back on, the ID card was gone."

Last month dredging contractor Charles Morton, working on removing unexploded ordnance from the harbour floor at Waipio Point, plucked the battered card from the mud and sludge.

Morton's company's policy if they discovered dog tags was to try to find the owner or at least their family. He contacted the NZ Navy with photos, saying he hoped the card's owner was still alive.

Foster joined the Navy in January 1963 for five years, saying he wanted "an interesting job and a different life".

The travel was the really enjoyable part, with the deployment to Hawaii coming during March and October 1968 — he can't remember exactly when.

HMNZS Otago was in Pearl Harbour for refuelling, taking on supplies and training.

Morton said his company dredges Pearl Harbour frequently and a lot of interesting objects have been found.

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"We have found several bells from small boats, several propellers from 10 inches to five feet [25cm to 1.5m] across, a Danforth anchor that stands eight feet [2.4m] tall. We've found enough anti-aircraft ammo to shoot down half the WWII Zeros."

Coffee cups, mess trays, silverware, tools and dozens of lead weights from fishing nets are common.

"We find the occasional dog tag, and they are forwarded to the Navy to be returned to their owners or next of kin."