I love to take my first graders on journeys around the world on library planes, boats and rocket ships.
Each year, I teach them about whales, and we read the fabulous book, The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson. I promised them last week that we would get on our boat again and visit Humphrey, the humpback whale.
This is the true story of Humphrey the Lost Whale, a humpback whale that swam under the Golden Gate Bridge one day in 1985, right into San Francisco Bay. As wonderful a sight as it was, having a humpback whale as big as a city bus right there in the Bay, there was trouble ahead. Instead of swimming back to the ocean, Humphrey went the wrong way, through the Delta and up the Sacramento River. The Sacramento River is fresh water. Whales need salt water to live. Even more troubling, Humphrey squeezed himself under a very small bridge to a place in the river where the water was shallow and narrow.
Everyone banded together, scientists, the Coast guard and citizens. They made loud noises underwater to scare Humphrey back down the river to the Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Humphrey, tired, lonely and hungry headed back down the river, only to stop in front of the small bridge. He couldn’t get through it. So, once again, his rescuers worked to help him, digging a bigger space for him under the bridge. Humphrey saw the hole and started to swim through, only to get suck in the pilings under the bridge. With a twist of his body, he got through the bridge and moved back toward San Francisco Bay and finally the ocean.
Humphrey came back to the San Francisco Bay several times after his dramatic rescue, one time requiring another rescue. This book combines just the right amount of suspense for young students. My students were waiting with baited breath to see if Humphrey could be saved and all cheered when he made it to the ocean again.