Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Humphrey's return turns out to be ‘a whale tale'

From Daily Republic // Oct. 18, 2005
Barry Eberling

SUISUN CITY - At first glance, the creature looked like it just might be a baby whale marking the 20th anniversary of Humphrey's famous adventures by swimming up Montezuma Slough in Suisun Marsh.

It swam under the murky, brown waters near the Beldon's Landing fishing area on Monday morning, darting amid the dozens of piles that hold up the arcing Montezuma Slough bridge.

Every now and then, it arched its back out of the water and showed a fin.

“The tail definitely looked like a whale,” said Sue Willey of Fairfield, who came to Beldon's Landing at 10 a.m. with her husband to enjoy the area's natural beauty.

Anthony Williams and Aaron Martin got a look at the creature as they drove over the bridge.

They drove up to Beldon's Landing to watch from shore.

“We thought it was a whale, too,” Martin said.

But the handful of onlookers were unable to get a close look. They didn't have the advantage of a camera that could freeze the image. The creature usually stayed in the middle of the wide slough and lifted a part of its body out of the water for only about a second at a time.

As things turned out, this wasn't Humphrey the Humpback Whale. Instead, the creature was Suzie the Sea Lion or Seal.

Twenty years ago to the day, Humphrey was causing a stir nationwide. People by the hundreds flocked to Solano County to see the unlikely sight of a whale swimming in rivers and sloughs 50 miles inland.

History failed to repeat itself on Monday. That became apparent to Martin and Williams when they walked onto the bridge for a closer look.

“He kind of looks like a sea lion,” Williams said.

Appearances by seals or sea lions in Montezuma Slough are not a rarity, said Ted Ceder and John Legakis as they prepared to launch a boat and go fishing.

“You don't see them every time,” Ceder said. “But you see them here and there.”

Sheriff's Deputy Ed Hipol said the creatures can especially be seen during the salmon runs. He patrols the area's waters by boat.

So Humphrey the Whale will keep his unique place in the region's history. Still, the onlookers at Beldon's Landing got to enjoy themselves.

“We had something to see,” Willey said. “Normally, we just watch the little fish jump.”

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at beberling@dailyrepublic.net.

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