FROM THE ARCHIVE: Humphrey the whale leaps into hearts of Bay Area residents in 1985

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ByCheryl Jennings KGO logo
Wednesday, April 26, 2023
FROM THE ARCHIVE: At look at Humphrey the whale in 1985
All this talk about a whale in the SF Bay conjures up memories of what may be the Bay Area's most famous marine visitor -- Humphrey the whale.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- All this talk about a whale in the San Francisco Bay can't help but conjure up memories of what may be the Bay Area's most famous marine visitor -- Humphrey the lost whale.

He captured our hearts and our headlines for almost a month. Aerials of Humphrey in bay, Humphrey in the river, and the Carquinez Strait.

It was October 1985 when Humphrey the wayward whale first appeared in the San Francisco Bay, beginning a 26-day odyssey that eventually took the humpback through the Carquinez Strait and up the Sacramento River, all while whale watchers looked through binoculars.

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The poor creature wallowed pitifully in shallow water while scientists and animal lovers from all over the country tried to figure out how to turn him back toward the sea.

The tiny town of Rio Vista was turned into a major tourist attraction overnight as whale watchers poured in to get a glimpse of Humphrey. And as much as Humphrey was studied, he was also sung to.

Finally, it was metal pipes that turned the tide for Humphrey. Humphrey herded a flotilla of small boats that herded him back to the ocean banging pipes underwater. And somehow, Humphrey seemed to know he was being saved.

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One of the members of the flotilla says Humphrey stayed very close, even eating barnacles off the hull of the boat.

On his final day in the bay, the whale was full of fight, leaping into the air almost saying farewell as he swam out, just after dusk, under the Golden Gate Bridge heading for life among his own kind, but leaving thousands of friends behind.

One of his fans says Humphrey put Rio Vista on the map. Another says Humphrey made history and it may never happen again.

Take a look at more stories and videos about whales.