West Seattle, Washington
10:12 AM: Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales just called to report orcas visible southbound off Me-Kwa-Mooks [map], shortly after a texter told us that Orca Network reported orca sightings in the past hour off Bainbridge Island. We’re grabbing the binoculars to head down for a look.
10:45 AM: Some are visible off Blake, some further north and south. We are with Jeff and other watchers toward the south end of Emma Schmitz Overlook. Whitecaps on the Sound are making viewing a bit challenging.
11 AM: Jeff and Kersti Muul are still watching from the south end of Emma Schmitz – the whales are close to the other side of the Sound. We have to move on.
12:13 PM: Kersti reports in a comment that they’re still southbound, south of the Fauntleroy ferry lane now.
1:16 PM: An update from Jeff – before 1 pm, the whales were visible from Dilworth on Vashon [map], then turned northbound: “Probably K pod.”
2:09 PM: Still northbound, according to a texter who also says the whales have been confirmed as K-Pod, and according to Claire’s comment below.
3:09 PM: Brittany says via Twitter that they’re visible from Constellation Park with binoculars.
Thanks to Jim Borrow for the photo – the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), seen from West Seattle a little over an hour ago as it headed back to Bremerton after 13 days away. According to the Stennis website, it was out for “routine training for future operations” including “damage control and firefighting training, seamanship training, small boat operations, medical training, and exercises designed to maintain technical and tactical proficiency in a variety of warfare areas.”
Throughout the day, both firsthand and with the help of tipsters, we reported on Southern Resident Killer Whales’ travels past West Seattle’s western shore today. As they headed southbound, they were visible through binoculars, closer to the other side of the Sound than to us – but when they turned around and headed back north, they were close to shore, visible without assistance, as you can see in David Hutchinson‘s video above and Trileigh Tucker‘s photos below:
And more video – a long look at them from Ben Maund, recorded from Lincoln Park:
Will we see them again tomorrow? Depends on where they are following the fish!
(Added Wednesday evening: Photo by Trileigh Tucker)
10:10 AM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for word that orcas have been spotted in our area – believed to be southbound between Bainbridge Island and Elliott Bay, so you would want to look from Alki, for starters.
10:37 AM: Thanks also to Alisa from Orca Network, which has at least one commenter seeing from Alki, reporting they are closer to the west side of the Sound than this side, so you’ll need binoculars.
11:05 AM: We are seeing them from Constellation Park, with binoculars. By the ship anchored off Manchester with a red hull.
11:20 AM: The biggest group is still southbound, now off the east side of Blake Island. Also here: Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail, who says to save the date 6 pm December 12 for a Southern Resident Killer Whales update at C & P Coffee (WSB sponsor). And a spotter is here for WSDOT, which shuts down pile-driving on the Colman Dock project when orcas are close by.
12:33 PM: Orca Network says the whales are now off north Vashon, still heading south. (Speaking of Orca Network, its campaign to free the last Southern Resident in captivity, Lolita/Tokitae, has a fundraiser at Endolyne Joe’s [WSB sponsor] in Fauntleroy, 8 am-10 pm next Monday (November 13th), with 25 percent of the proceeds to be donated.)
12:49 PM: Jeff Hogan from Killer Whale Tales says they’re visible from the Lincoln Park picnic-shelter area.
1:08 PM: They’re still southbound, midchannel, south of the Fauntleroy ferry dock. The whale-watching boat Chilkat Express (as ID’d by MarineTraffic.com) is just north of them.
2:23 PM: Now a report from Fauntleroy that they’ve turned north – at least, the one big group has – and is again visible in the ferry lane area. “Super close to shore,” Kersti tells us, viewing from Lincoln Park.
3:52 PM: They put on quite a show passing Alki Point and are now still NB in the mouth of Elliott Bay.
Thanks to Jim Borrow for the photo – it answers the question several have asked us today, about those fishing boats seen off Alki. They are purse seiners, which often show up right about this time of year, fishing for chum salmon. (WSB archives have photos from past years including 2009 and 2014.) The chum run might also be what has drawn the orcas we’ve been tracking today – though the Southern Residents prefer chinook, those salmon are harder to find right now.
Thanks to the texter who sent that photo – the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) has just left Bremerton again. It’s been a month and a half since the Stennis returned from a training and certification mission.
With the help of texters/callers/commenters, we tracked orcas through the area this afternoon. And tonight Gary Jones shared photos from Alki Point! Passing ferry passengers got the best view:
The Kitsap Transit foot ferry, too:
Gary said the orcas were spread out over a distance, headed north when he photographed them around 5 pm.
According to Orca Network, they were likely Southern Resident Killer Whales.
1:04 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip that resident orcas have been heading southbound – we just checked Orca Network for updates and they were seen from Bainbridge Island not that long ago. So we are sharing this heads-up. If you see them off West Seattle, please let us know – best way is via our 24/7 hotline, text or voice, 206-293-6302 (or comment below) – thank you!
2:51 PM: ON reports they were seen headed this way from the north side of Elliott Bay as of about 10 minutes ago.
4:20 PM: Thanks for the update – just got a text that three orcas were seen passing Weather Watch Park!
4:35 PM: And Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail just called to say they’re off Emma Schmitz Overlook, visible WITHOUT binoculars. We’re headed down in hopes of photos.
5:13 PM: And … oh well. The orcas turned around and headed back north before we got to the shore.
(PHOTOS ADDED Sunday evening)
1:16 PM: Via text from Kersti Muul – orcas are back in the area, transients this time, seen southbound from north Bainbridge Island before 1 pm, “large male T87 and others with calf.” Please let us know if you see them (comment, and/or text our 24/7 hotline, 206-293-6302) – thank you!
1:32 PM: Update from Kersti – they’re now “outside Elliott Bay” so should be in view (now or soon) – be sure to bring binoculars.
4:34 PM: Thanks to the commenters who have provided updates – we had to cover (inland) events and weren’t able to go look!
SUNDAY EVENING: Thanks to Greg Snyder for e-mailing the two photos we have added above, and thanks to Kersti for adding photos in comments below!
Thanks to Kersti Muul for the photo – whale-watchers were out at Constellation Park at dusk, as Southern Resident Killer Whales that had been making their way south all day finally got this far. No telling where they are now, but if they continued southbound, we might see them heading back this way tomorrow … any time you spot a whale, please let us know via our 24/7 hotline, 206-293-6302 – thank you!
Lea contacted us after seeing this happen off Beach Drive, just in case someone out there lost a paddleboard and is wondering what happened to it:
A white paddleboard floating in Puget Sound between Lincoln Park and Alki Point was picked up by the Coast Guard at 11:15 this morning. There was no one on the board.
Thanks to Jim Borrow for the photo, taken at 7:19 am. The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) was heading home this morning after three weeks away (we last noted it outbound on September 1st). It’s reported to have been “conducting flight deck certification, carrier qualification, and training in the operations areas off San Diego.”
7:58 AM: Thanks for the texted updates! Orcas are now reported to be southbound past the 4100 block of Beach Drive; we had an earlier report of some in Elliott Bay. Let us know if you see them!
8:18 AM: We have conflicting reports on direction so we’ll just amend this to “seen off West Seattle.”
8:26 AM: Thanks to Bruce Easter for the photo from the Elliott Bay sighting – added above.
What a way to start the day! Thanks to the King County Water Taxi‘s West Seattle crew for sharing that video – from the Doc Maynard, they saw orcas on this morning’s 6:15 and 6:35 am sailings, Frank Massaro tells WSB, adding that crew member Jade Farrar recorded the video during the latter.
10:09 AM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the texted alert – she says transient orcas have been sighted headed this way, southbound toward Alki Point – one week after this visit. Let us know if you see them!
10:42 AM: Update from Kersti (also in comments below) – they’re now visible from Alki Point Lighthouse.
3:07 PM: Three photos added above, all taken by Kersti at Constellation Park. (If you see whales off West Seattle, that’s always breaking news, so please let us know, text or voice, via our 24/7 hotline, 206-293-6302 – thank you!)
The photos are from Kersti Muul, one of the first people to let us know this morning – texting our 24/7 hotline at 206-293-6302 – that transient orcas were headed this way.
She reports, “Some that have been ID’d so far (but not in total) are: T101, T102 and 36B’s, T37A1, T36,” saying T102 is the “large male” in her photos, which were taken from various spots on West Seattle’s west-facing shore.
“They traveled slow, and stealthy, disappearing smoothly into the milky, smokey horizon. Reappearing with exhale. Our beautiful marine kin. When T102 first surfaced, I was alone, as was he. It was thrilling to share a moment of peace with him.” Then she saw them again headed north this evening:
The evening pass wasn’t quite so peaceful, with one group of boaters disregarding the Be Whale Wise guidelines: “These young men went barreling towards the three Ts and everyone on shore gasped. I reported them to NOAA. This is a good example of behavior we really want to call out and change.”:
Now – here’s a way you can help educate. One of the groups Kersti works with, Whale Scout, has volunteer orientation/training events coming up – one of them not far away. Noon-4 pm September 17th at Seahurst Park‘s Environmental Learning Center. She explains: “Volunteers will be trained to help people figure out where, and how to watch whales from shore, restore salmon habitat and learn how to ID individual whales. It is an excellent opportunity to discover just how well you can watch whales in West Seattle, as well as how you can help our critically endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales, and the dwindling salmon runs they rely upon.” Here’s more information. This training will be just in time for what Kersti says is the anticipated return of the Southern Resident Killer Whales to our area, likely next month.
9:31 AM: Thanks to two texters for the heads-up via our hotline (206-293-6302) – orcas are headed this way, southbound. Kersti Muul says they were seen off Golden Gardens (Ballard); an unsigned text says they were seen off West Point on the north side of Elliott Bay. Please let us know if you see them!
10:06 AM: An Orca Network commenter says at least two are headed toward Alki Point, still southbound, as of a few minutes ago.
1:53 PM: Beautiful Saturday all around Puget Sound, including the route for this morning’s Great Cross-Sound Race, which takes Sound Rowers competitors from Alki to Blakely Rock (off Bainbridge Island) and back. The solo racer at right in our top photo is Greg Barton, the Olympic gold medalist, who came in first, in 55:58; Kevin Olney and Paul Clement were 11 seconds behind. Here’s the full list of results – we’ll be adding more photos later.
ADDED 11:38 PM: #31, Evan Jacobs (58:30), and #32, Tyler Peterson (59:04), were fifth and sixth, respectively, overall:
Rowing together in 2006, they set the course record.
The top quad entry was #4, T. Batty, T. Silver, A. Storb, and R. Storb (57:40):
The rest of this year’s races are listed here.
Like the superstructure of the state ferry Chimacum last year, the superstructure for the new ferry Suquamish will be passing West Seattle on its way to Vigor. This time, though, the superstructure is coming here from the south, not the north. From the news release announcing the move:
About a year before its scheduled official launch as the newest member of Washington State Ferries’ fleet, the superstructure of the 144-car ferry Suquamish will move by barge from Jesse Co.’s fabrication facility near the Port of Tacoma to Vigor’s Harbor Island Shipyard in Seattle.
The superstructure is expected to leave Tacoma on Wednesday afternoon, travel up Puget Sound and arrive at Harbor Island in Seattle on Thursday morning.
The movement of the superstructure, or top half, of the 362-foot vessel is not only a major milestone but also illustrative of the wide-ranging jobs and economic impact of building ferries in this state.
Jesse Co. is one of more than a dozen subcontractors working with Vigor on the Suquamish, the state’s fourth new Olympia Class ferry. Each 144-car ferry built in Washington generates up to 560 direct jobs at shipyards and subcontractors, and a total of 1,300 direct, indirect and induced jobs in the Puget Sound region.
“We take great pride in helping build quality ferries for the State of Washington,” Phil Jesse, General Manager of Jesse Co. said. “The work is important, the jobs are great, and our families and future generations are able to ride and watch the ferries travel on Puget Sound for many years to come.”
The movement of the Suquamish superstructure to Seattle is scheduled to begin Wednesday morning when it is loaded onto a barge at Jesse Co.’s facility in Tacoma. At the same time Vigor is scheduled to move the Suquamish hull, or bottom half, which is being built on Harbor Island, into its massive drydock. The superstructure is scheduled to arrive at Vigor early Thursday and will be joined to the hull on Friday.
Completing the construction of the vessel with all necessary engineering, propulsion, electrical, safety and other components prior to sea trials will take approximately 11 more months. The Suquamish is scheduled for delivery to Washington State Ferries in July of 2018.
The Suquamish will be the fourth and final currently authorized addition of new Olympic Class 144-car ferries to the WSF fleet, following the Tokitae in 2014, Samish in 2015 and Chimacum earlier this year. Construction cost of the Olympic Class 144-car ferries has been within one percent of the projected budget on each vessel.
“Building these ferries is extremely gratifying to our workers and helps strengthen our company and the maritime industry,” Vigor CEO Frank Foti said. “The skills and expertise required are essential to maritime, and the middle-income manufacturing jobs provide great opportunity for industrial artisans and help diversify the economy.”
“All of us at Vigor are honored to do this work for Washington State Ferries and for the people who will use these ferries for decades to come,” continued Foti.
Maritime is a $30 billion industry for the State of Washington and provides more than 148,000 jobs, according to a study by the Economic Development Council and Workforce Development Council of Seattle and King County.
Washington State ferries are built to serve for 60 years with appropriate maintenance. That’s the longest lifespan of virtually any vessel fleet. In comparison the U.S. Navy typically retires vessels after 35 years, the Coast Guard after 30 years, and BC Ferries at 40 years.
The schedule could change, but the current plan is for the superstructure to start its voyage from Tacoma to Seattle around 5 pm tomorrow, and arrive at Vigor on Harbor Island “early Thursday morning.” You’ll be able to track it by watching the progress of the transport tug, Pacific Knight, via MarineTraffic.com.
Thanks to the texter who just sent that photo, saying they were seeing whales from Colman Pool on the shore at Lincoln Park, headed northbound.
Alex Rottler spotted those two jellyfish while paddleboarding about a week ago off the 5000 block of Beach Drive and wanted to share the photo. As best Alex, and we, can ID them, it’s a lion’s-mane jellyfish that used its long, stinging tentacles to capture an egg-yolk jellyfish; read about both here.
1:03 PM: Running later than usual – due along the downtown waterfront at 1 pm but just now approaching Alki, passing South Bainbridge – the Seafair Parade of Ships has begun. (And yes, that’s why you’re seeing helicopters over Elliott Bay to the north.)
The two US Navy ships, destroyer USS Michael Murphy and amphibious-transport USS Anchorage, are in the lead, followed by Royal Canadian Navy ships and the US Coast Guard cutter Mellon. And a Seattle Fire Department fireboat is just off mid-Alki awaiting them. Still very hazy from wildfire smoke, so visibility isn’t good enough to photograph them until they’re passing.
Fireboat and Navy ships as Seafair Parade passes Alki pic.twitter.com/LgjxETKhCP
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) August 2, 2017
1:22 PM: Now passing Alki, with the fireboat spraying a welcome.
1:40 PM: The fireboat and Navy ships are about to round Duwamish Head, with the Canadian and USCG ships passing mid-Alki behind them.
5:26 PM: Photos added. The ships are now docked downtown – if you’re interested in touring them, this Seafair webpage has the times, places, and rules.
Thanks to Gary Jones for the photo – while we were covering the plane recovery off Beach Drive, he was photographing the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) passing Alki Point, arriving for Seafair Fleet Week. Tomorrow (Wednesday, August 2nd), the Pearl Harbor-homeported ship is scheduled to (again) sail past West Seattle’s north-facing shore, headed to downtown, during the Seafair Parade of Ships – 1 pm is the official start time, but in past years they’ve appeared off Alki closer to 12:30. The full Parade of Ships lineup – scheduled to include another Navy ship, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, and two Royal Canadian Navy vessels – is on this Seafair webpage, along with information on touring them Thursday-Sunday.
ABOUT THE HAZE: You might notice the photo looks a little murky. The air’s grown increasingly hazy in the past few hours, and @WestSeaWx says it’s wildfire smoke, mostly blowing down this way from British Columbia, which is being hit very hard this season.