Carole G. Vogel

Writer • Researcher • Family History Specialist

Humphrey the Wrong-Way Whale

by Kathryn A. Goldner and Carole G. Vogel


In October 1985, a humpback whale dubbed Humphrey made a wrong turn while migrating south from his feeding grounds in the chilly waters of Alaska, Instead of following the Pacific coastline south to Mexico or heading southwest toward Hawaii, Humphrey strayed into San Francisco Bay. He slipped beneath the Golden Gate Bridge and swam past freighters, pleasure craft, and fishing vessels into the Sacramento River Delta.

The further inland the whale journeyed, the less salty his watery environment became. Being less dense, the fresh water did not hold Humphrey up as well as salt water. As a result the whale required more energy to swim, dive, and surface. Government officials and marine biologists soon became concerned for the whale’s well-being and tried to turn him around. Humphrey the Wrong-Way Whale chronicles the dangerous journey of the errant whale and the efforts of his rescuers.


Praise for Humphrey the Wrong-Way Whale:

“The saga of the whale Humphrey’s wayward swim into the San Francisco Bay in 1985 became an apt vehicle for the discussion of the humpback whale physiology, life cycle, and behavior. While the authors fictionalize Humphrey’s birth, migration to Arctic feeding grounds, and maturation, they clearly delineate what is known about these whales and what scientists speculate regarding migration, whale songs, and social behavior…” – Booklist

Humphrey the Wrong-Way Whale combines the most current knowledge about humpback whales with the story of the young humpback who swam into San Francisco Bay in 1985 and kept swimming inland up the river. The magnificence of the huge sea mammals is communicated through the highly readable text and the detailed photographs and diagrams…” – School Library Journal

  • Published by Dillon Press, Inc. 1986
  • 125 pages
  • Grades 3-8
  • ISBN 0-87518-360-3
  • Full-color and black-and-white photographs
  • Maps and diagrams