(Photo by Gary Jones)
Yes, that was the USS John C. Stennis again, visible from West Seattle on its way back to Bremerton, two weeks after it left for flight-operations testing following its quarter-billion-dollar overhaul. The Kitsap Sun reported on Monday that the Stennis got its flight-operations certification during the testing off California, following 160 launches and recoveries. Other training’s been under way on board, too, as shown on the Stennis’s Facebook page.
(Lowman Beach photos by Trileigh Tucker)
A night of lights and song on two West Seattle beaches. First – it was barely dark enough to see the star shine on the Christmas Ship as it arrived at Lowman Beach around 4:20 pm. Despite the massive Murray CSO Control Project construction setup across the street and in part of the beach park, a sizable crowd made its way to the beach just north of Lincoln Park:
While the Dickens Carolers were serenading the Lowman spectators from the Christmas Ship, Alki visitors were getting ready for the ship’s next stop. Just inland from West Seattle’s biggest beach, the Log House Museum (61st/Stevens) extended its hours to welcome visitors for “Cookies and Cider on the Porch”:
The museum also showed off gift ideas from its gift shop (open during the museum’s Thursday-Sunday hours, noon-4 pm), including the recently published “Apron Strings” cookbook:
From there, it was on to the beach, to await the Christmas Ship and the decorated boats accompanying it – some official, some unofficial. Seattle Parks and Recreation staffers and volunteers from around the department’s Southwest division organized entertainment and treats at Alki Bathhouse, for a party that started before and continued after the ship’s visit. That included bonus entertainment:
And then, just after 5 pm, the Christmas Ship came into view, rounding Alki Point.
Lots of families among the spectators who lined the beach and seawall in the Bathhouse vicinity to hear the Dickens Carolers – the lineup rotates, as the Christmas Ship schedule shows – perform Christmas classics from the ship, amplified toward the shore.
(Hear a bit of the music via Instagram.) After 20 minutes, with the announcer’s cheery “Ahoy to the world!”, the boats headed off toward a downtown marina for a break (and new passengers) before the night’s next two stops. The Christmas Ship will be back in West Seattle for an encore on Monday night (December 15th), 9:15-9:35 pm, just outside Salty’s on Alki (WSB sponsor).
(Possibly the last photo of J32 – at right – by Melisa Pinnow, provided by Orca Network)
11:45 PM: Another death reported tonight among the endangered orcas whose home is Puget Sound and adjacent waters. The orca found dead in British Columbia is identified as a member of J Pod, J32, known as “Rhapsody,” an 18-year-old female. According to reports including this one published by the Vancouver Sun, she might have been pregnant – a necropsy will reveal whether that’s true. J32′s death comes less than two months after the death of baby L120 was reported. The Southern Resident Killer Whales’ total number is now down to 77, much lower than the triple-digit population the official “recovery plan” had envisioned by now, as discussed at this recent talk presented by The Whale Trail.
11:53 PM: We have the full Orca Network news release about J32′s death – click ahead:
Monday afternoon, we showed you the USS John C. Stennis heading past West Seattle, going out for training after the carrier’s quarter-billion-dollar maintenance project.
(Photo by Guy Smith)
Today, we received a photo from Lt. Cmdr. Sarah Higgins in public affairs for the Stennis’s group. She wrote, “Thanks for covering USS Stennis’ departure from Bremerton yesterday! Attached is what our view looked like. Absolutely gorgeous day in the PacNW.”
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Ignacio D. Perez)
Click either photo for a larger view.
1:19 PM: Thanks to Joseph for the tip – he just asked about an aircraft carrier seen heading out from Bremerton; according to our friends at the Kitsap Sun, it’s the USS John C. Stennis, headed out for training after 16 months and $240 million of maintenance work at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
2:07 PM: Thanks also to those who’ve sent photos! First one added (top photo) is ours – it was still in view from Alki, looking north, by the time we headed downhill, but moving fast. Others got even better views:
(Photo by James Bratsanos)
Adding a few more. The Kitsap Sun reports the Stennis will be back before Christmas.
11:34 AM: Orcas are back in Puget Sound today, and might be visible off West Seattle soon. After tips to a sighting off Kingston at midmorning – thanks to our friends at Killer Whale Tales and The Whale Trail for early alerts – we’re seeing mentions via Orca Network FB commenters that they’ve been seen from Discovery Park, still “trending southbound.” Expert advice for today includes using binoculars to watch from bluffs, rather than on the surface. Please let us know if you see them – comment here, or text/voice 206-293-6302; we’ll be looking too.
1:08 PM UPDATE: By multiple reports, including Gary‘s comment here, they’ve turned back northward just as they got close to our area … for now.
12:58 PM: Early alert this time – text reports orcas are “south of Vashon” and headed northbound. No research boat this time because conditions and weather are less than optimal. If you missed the weekend sightings – photos and updates from Saturday are here, video by “Diver Laura” James is here. As always, we appreciate your updates if/when you see them – comment and/or text/call our 24/7 hotline, 206-293-6302!
1:23 PM: And … guess that’s the potential risk with early alerts. They’ve now turned to head through the Tacoma Narrows, southbound. But if that changes later, we’ll update here again.
3:51 PM: According to the Orca Network’s Facebook page, whales are now passing Olalla in Kitsap County, along the passage west of Vashon, northbound. It’s misty/murky looking west from Beach Drive (where we’re working right now) but you never know, they might be in view before nightfall.
No West Seattle sightings today that we’ve heard of, but Saturday, Southern Resident orcas passed our area headed southbound in the morning, and then back northbound in the afternoon (as reported here – thanks again to everyone who shared location updates!). “Diver Laura” James was watching from the Brace Point area during the northbound pass, and shares the video above (we mentioned it briefly in last night’s sea-star report but you might have gone right past the link). Note that the boat with the orcas in the last two minutes was carrying researchers.
(Photo by Trileigh Tucker)
8:53 AM: Southbound orcas were seen from the Bainbridge-Seattle ferry about half an hour ago, according to a thread on the Orca Network Facebook page. That could place them off our shores now or soon. Still blustery out there, so you’ll almost certainly need binoculars (also, sounds like they’re closer to the east side of the Sound). Let us know if you see them!
9:38 AM: In comments, Gary noted them passing Alki Point, and we’ve since received Jeff Hogan (Killer Whale Tales)’s text report of a Lincoln Park-area sighting, still southbound. This time of year, they are chasing the chum salmon run – same one that has brought net fishers into view in the past few weeks – so here’s hoping they are finding the food they need for survival.
(Photo by Paul B)
2:27 PM: See comments for the orcas’ travels since then. Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail has just posted on Facebook that they’ve turned back northbound and could be passing south West Seattle shores again by 3 pm if they continue their current path. We’ve also added photos from earlier.
3:37 PM: Donna just called – the whales are visible from Lincoln Park, with the blows visible from this side, and she’s off to the South Alki area in about 10 minutes – look for a pod of people watching from shore (she brings excellent binoculars).
That’s a recent photo of the King County Sheriff’s Office helicopter Guardian One; today, KCSO sends an alert that you might spot it flying along the West Seattle coastline next Tuesday, and that’ll be part of a drill:
Notice of Joint Maritime Training Exercise
On Tuesday November 25th the King County Sheriff’s Office TAC 30 team (our department’s tactical unit) will be hosting a multi-agency maritime operations exercise in the area of the Des Moines waterfront. Citizens may see our helicopter flying from the Alki Point area south to Dumas Bay. Hours of the exercise will be from approximately 8 AM until 5 PM.
The main landing zone for the helicopter will be the Des Moines Marina. Agencies participating in the exercise include the Washington State Patrol, Seattle Police, Bainbridge Island Police, the U.S. Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection and King County Medic One.
There will be numerous law enforcement boats involved in the exercise, along with one boat from Argosy Cruises. The main landing zone for the helicopter will be the Des Moines Marina. During the exercise there will be no public access to the pier.
We’ll remind you again when it gets closer, but for now, just so you know; the law-enforcement boats might be noticed as they head that way, too.
(File photo courtesy Laura James)
Thanks to “Diver Laura” James, who long has worked on the sea-star die-off mystery as a “citizen scientist,” for the tip on this: New scientific research says a virus is the likely culprit in the deaths of so many of what are commonly known as starfish. The Seattle Times (WSB partner) published a report this afternoon, pointing to the research paper itself (read it here), which concludes, “Based on our observations, the densovirus, SSaDV, is the most likely virus involved in this disease.” However, the researchers note, this isn’t a new virus, so they still don’t have the big picture of what’s happening and what it might lead to.
P.S. It’s been a year since Diver Laura first pointed out die-off evidence on West Seattle shores/in West Seattle waters, and she’s continuing to follow up on what’s happening now.
Following up on the West Coast port backup noted here on Monday (the union and terminal operators, still in contract talks, disagree on its cause): The number of cargo ships at anchor in this area has increased tonight. One of the ships that had been off Manchester for a few days, the Hyundai Force, moved on to Tacoma (as shown in Cheryl’s photo above) this afternoon. Two more arrived in that area, so tonight, MarineTraffic.com shows three ships off Manchester, two in Elliott Bay off northeast West Seattle/Harbor Island (the OOCL London, shown here Monday, and the YM March), and two off Magnolia.
(Added: Photo taken tonight by Don Brubeck)
Seattle’s terminals were closed today for the Veterans Day holiday.
While sizable ships anchor off Don Armeni from time to time, seldom have we seen a loaded-with-containers cargo ship there, appearing almost close enough to touch, as did the OOCL London this morning. Over the weekend, Beach Drive Blog pointed out the two cargo ships visible at anchor across the Sound, off Manchester; from West Seattle, you can see two more ships anchored off Magnolia.
It’s a visible effect of an alleged “slowdown” that comes six months into West Coast contract talks between the ILWU, which says it’s “congestion,” and the terminal operators of the Pacific Maritime Association, which accuses the ILWU of “orchestrated job actions.” According to this online schedule, OOCL London was to dock at Terminal 18 yesterday; one of the ships waiting off Manchester, the Hyundai Force, was to dock at T-18 Saturday.
The pace of work is reported to have picked up at both ports today – at the Port of Seattle per its seaport division managing director Linda Stryk in a phone conversation with WSB, and Tacoma per this an updated “operation status” online. Styrk calls the increase in ships at anchor a “snowballing effect” of last week’s “very low productivity,” while adding, “productivity improved over the weekend” but warning “it will take some time to catch up with the snowball effect.” Since the Port’s only role in this is as a “landlord,” as Styrk put it, the best they can do is engage in “advocacy and raising concerns up the flagpole, encouraging both parties to come to terms.” That advocacy, she added, includes making note of the effects the slowdown is having on exports. “People recognize that low productivity is not good for jobs; hopefully the advocacy of impacts will help them keep moving in a more-positive direction.”
TUESDAY AFTERNOON NOTE: The Hyundai Force left Manchester today for Tacoma.
— Wade Harper (@Wade_68) November 5, 2014
1:27 PM: Thanks to two tipsters who have mentioned a lone whale – believed to be a humpback – headed northbound, fairly close to West Seattle’s shore. By Me-Kwa-Mooks on Beach Drive, according to the phone call we just received. Let us know if you see it!
4:43 PM: As commenters noted, it traveled into Elliott Bay. Wade tweeted the photo we’ve added above.
THURSDAY MORNING: 7:30 am sighting near Seahurst in Burien, according to the Orca Network FB page.
Thanks to Guy and Joy Smith for another unusual Alki Point sighting – a brown pelican. They report it “rested on the water just north of Alki Point (Wednesday) before it headed south around the point.” Though the photo is from a distance, it’s clear from the pelican’s coloring that it’s a mature brown pelican – the ones that are truly “brown” are juveniles, like this one that hung around West Seattle for a while in early 2013. They are more common the further south you go, but generally keep to the seacoast and aren’t often seen on inland waterways like ours.
Late in the day, orcas were back in the area, first time since last Friday’s throng, heading south – thanks to @sudsymaggie for tweeting the report! – so if you’re by the water tomorrow, keep watch, and please let us know (text/call 206-293-6302) if you see them. Even though weather made the viewing tougher, orca lovers were somewhat balmed, after the sadness of last night’s report that the Southern Resident Killer Whales’ first baby in two years is missing and presumed dead.
Unlike most of their counterparts, the southern residents subsist on fish, and they are here looking for chum salmon; as of last weekend, the run didn’t yet appear to be plentiful – Guy Smith on Alki Point sent a photo of a purse seiner that he said didn’t seem to be hauling much in on Sunday night (though apparently it did net some fish before departing Monday morning).
Also regarding the chum, our friends at the Kitsap Sun have published this update about how things are looking across the water.
WEDNESDAY MORNING: A sighting was reported from the Bainbridge ferry just after 7 am, by a commenter on the Orca Network FB page, a few orcas headed toward the southwest. Weather’s awfully murky today but conditions can change quickly, so …
(Photo by Carrie Sapp)
After the Southern Resident Killer Whales came through last Friday, the experts noticed someone missing in other regional sightings – baby L120, first calf born to the local orcas in two years. No one wanted to announce her death until word came from orca experts – and now it has, shared in a news release via Orca Network:
The Center for Whale Research has confirmed that baby L120, only about seven weeks old and the third known offspring of a 23-year old Southern Resident orca known as L86, was not with his or her mother when she and other members of L pod were photographed recently in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research said, “L86 was seen and photographed on Friday, Saturday, and Monday, all without L120.”
L120 was the first newborn Southern Resident offspring seen since August 2012. In February of that year the the body of L86′s second offspring, 3-year old female L112, washed up at Long Beach Wash. with indications of death by severe acoustic trauma.
Research conducted in recent years has shown that Southern Resident orcas depend almost entirely on chinook salmon for sustenance, with a diet of chum salmon during fall months when chinook are especially scarce.
This orca clan has suffered episodic food deficiency for many decades, as chinook salmon runs were depleted by habitat destruction, excessive harvest and dams from Alaska to California. They were also routinely shot at for decades and over 50 were captured or killed for theme parks during the 1960s and 70s, followed by wanton disposal of persistent toxins into Puget Sound that continue to impair fetal development and immune responses, especially when the whales can’t find sufficient food.
“We haven’t treated these magnificent orcas well at all. As a society we are not successfully restoring this orca community despite the many warnings and legal declarations. Our challenge is clear: bountiful salmon runs must be restored and protected or we won’t see Resident orcas in the Salish Sea in coming years.” said Howard Garrett of Orca Network.
The loss of her second baby must be especially traumatic for L86, but knowing this young orca will never grow up and reproduce is painful for all who care about this precariously dwindling extended family. Now down to only 78 members, the Southern Resident community is at or below their numbers in 2001 when alarms rang with such intensity that they were eventually listed as endangered under the ESA in 2005.
(Starting at :15 in, you’ll see some whales – sorry for the shakiness, very long zoom!)
8:59 AM: If you’re anywhere near the water today, keep watch for orcas! Just before nightfall Thursday, the Orca Network had southbound sightings in the north Sound – first sightings that far south in quite a while. Then this morning around 7:30 am, according to West Seattleite Jeff Hogan from Killer Whale Tales, sightings were reported off Vashon Island – still southbound, but at some point, they will have to head back this way, so we’re sharing the alert. If you see whales, please let us know (text/voice 206-293-6302 is our breaking-news hotline, and this qualifies); we’ll update with any reports.
9:40 AM: Still southbound, south of us, per this ON commenter – off Point Robinson on Maury Island (across Puget Sound from Des Moines) about 20 minutes ago.
10:44 AM: Now at least some of the whales are reported to have turned and headed northbound.
12:14 PM: Jeff just texted to say that whales believed to be from all three resident pods are “trending northbound” past Three Tree Point south of West Seattle.
(Added: Photo by Greg Snyder)
1:28 PM: In view! Passing Blake Island.
1:58 PM: The research boat is visible off Blake Island – binoculars definitely needed – if you are near Me-Kwa-Mooks on Beach Drive as we are now. Some whales are ahead of it, some behind.
5:38 PM: Continuing to add visuals from today’s sightings as we get them. Above and (added) below, photos by Gary Jones, as the orcas passed Alki Lighthouse.
Here’s word of the first presentation in a new series of Orca Talks presented by West Seattle-headquartered The Whale Trail: You’ll hear about the proposal for “A Protected Zone for Puget Sound Orcas,” 7 pm Thursday, October 30th at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor). From TWT executive director Donna Sandstrom:
The Southern Resident Killer Whales are endangered and seriously declining; their 2014 population of 79 is the lowest since 1985. To aid their recovery, Orca Relief is urging NOAA Fisheries to conduct a public process that will result in a Whale Protection Zone for the SRKWs.
A well designed and enforced WPZ would provide the Southern Resident Orca a safe-haven in the very core of their critical habitat, and a relief from vessel impacts including noise, disturbance and air pollution. Bruce Stedman, Executive Director of Orca Relief, will describe the key aspects of how a protected area for the Orca should be developed and how it could help the SRKWs begin to recover.
These talks are usually sellouts – get your ticket(s) ASAP online, $5 suggested donation, kids free. C & P is at 5612 California SW.
Last time we featured undersea video from “Diver Laura” James – observing a curious octopus – we heard clamors for more. Laura has obliged, inviting us to share the clip you see above, which she titled “Beneath a Dark Sea.” Yes, these are local waters – Cove 2, right off Seacrest.
Thank you, as always, to “Diver Laura” James for sharing another view of what you won’t see unless you’re a diver too. From her dive last night off Seacrest, an unedited stretch of octopus-watching:
Along with the link, Laura wrote: “We spent almost 10 minutes with this amazing beautiful creature before we had to leave because of depth, time and air constraints (though I would have happily spent all night). It turns out my buddy swam right over the well-camouflaged octopus and was checking out the den of another octopus looking to see if there were any eggs (none to be found so far). You can see me signal him by bobbing my lights. The octopus gets curious and decides it wants to come check me out (I’m actually swimming backwards in some of the video) until my dive buddy comes over and then it decides to do something even more entertaining. Upon noticing my dive buddy, it ceases advancing on me and for lack of a better descriptive, turns around and starts sneaking up on my buddy. You can actually see it hunkering down and hiding behind the log, then it squeezes under the log and boo! Octopus! It does not appear upset in any of the interactions, more curious and checking things out. It does get upset later on when it tries to invade the den of a second octopus and gets into a bit of a wrestling match.” P.S. Interesting Giant Pacific Octopus info and trivia here.
P.S. On a much-smaller scale – remember Laura’s iPhone-microscope plankton-watching? She has agreed to join us in the WSB booth at the West Seattle Junction Harvest Festival four weeks from today, so you can bring your kid(s) by to have a look at the tiny creatures that fill our seas. The Harvest Festival is set for 10 am-2 pm Sunday, October 26th.
ADDED 3:42 PM: Laura just sent an edited video with a “potpourri of critters” from the dive, so we’re adding it:
West Seattle Crime Watch notes:
TROUBLE AT SEA: Thanks to Wendy (who sent that photo), Erin, and Lynn for mentioning police activity on the water and on land off the Don Armeni/Anchor (Luna) Park area around sunset tonight. After hearing via the scanner that police were going to tow a boat downtown, we headed over in hopes of asking shoreside officers what was going on, but we just missed them. Via e-mail, we did get some information from Southwest Precinct Lt. Paul Leung, who says it involved “a disturbance between a male and a female. Officers boarded the boat. The female retracted her story but the male was arrested for several outstanding DV [domestic violence] warrants.”
MISSING FIRE PIT: James, near Lincoln Park, says the fire pit used for neighborhood gatherings all summer is suddenly missing.
(Saturday), my family and I went to Alki for lunch and then ran some errands. We’re sure the fire pit was out front when we left, but now it’s not. It was close to the street, but didn’t have a ‘Free’ sign or anything on it. I’d like to see if a nearby neighbor picked it up wondering if it was indeed abandoned. We live on a block with very light traffic (46th Ave SW between Kenyon & Austin) and don’t see many cars that don’t live close. It disappeared between noon and 4:30 on Saturday (yesterday).
The fire pit is black iron. The base is up on legs, and the fire is in a tray surrounded by an iron lattice. It’s probably 3 feet long on its longer side, and 2 feet wide. Can you see if anyone in the neighborhood took it thinking we were giving it away? No harm no foul if we get it back.
It has been reported to police just in case it WASN’T a mistake.
ADDED 1 AM – SUNDAY BURGLARY: Just missed a phone call from someone who reported being burglarized in Belvidere Sunday, coming home to find their home on 37th SW “trashed,” including jewelry left behind that didn’t belong to them.
P.S. No West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting this month, but WSCPC says it will reconvene in October (10/21, 7 pm, at the precinct).
(L-pod orcas – file photo, shared here in 2009 by Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales)
Just a week ago, the Kitsap Sun reported that Puget Sound’s orcas, the Southern Resident Killer Whales, were down to their lowest population level in almost 30 years, after two deaths this year, and no new births in two years. Tonight, some good news: The Center for Whale Research, which had reported the population down to 78, says it’s up to 79, with a new baby spotted in L Pod, same pod that had the last SRKW birth in 2012. In a Facebook post, CWR says the baby, to be known as L120, was with L86. You can see a photo on Orca Network‘s FB page.
“Diver Laura” James promised video from her morning at Seacrest with two ROVs (and friends) – and she’s delivered. The clip above includes some footage of the unfortunately not-recovering-yet local sea stars, as well as showing how an ROV gets around.
(Top photo by Laura James; other photos by Rachel Chaimson)
On Wednesday morning, the divers at Seacrest weren’t all human: As previewed here, “Diver Laura” James and friends went in with ROVs, to check on the sick-sea-star situation, among other missions. Laura sent a report and photos:
The day started by picking up the trash can that had been knocked over the night before:
Pretty gross. (Thanks to the kind gentleman who offered me a wet-wipe afterward.) Now on to the ROV’s :) They show up in BIG yellow boxes – seen here with National Geographic Young Explorer Erika Bergman, who is currently working on the OpenExplorer platform, and OpenROV summer intern Christine Spiten from Norway:
The event was well documented by myself and another West Seattle shooter, Micah O’Keiley, and his snazzy camera (he’s helping me do a promo video for Diver Laura and Kids program stuff, for which I am AMAZINGLY grateful).
Video up in the next day or so. They are very cute – this one even has a shark fin!
Then it was time for me to get in the water with the little critters:
They were waiting impatiently:
Good dive! Vis was a bit murky, and the baby mottled stars that were abundant a few weeks ago are now sparse. There is wasting disease ongoing, with arms from moderately-sized mottled stars lying around at regular intervals.
All too soon it was time to pack up and head home:
As noted in Wednesday’s daily preview, Laura is working on her own OpenROV, and promises advance notice of explorations, so you can check it out in person.
It took 52 minutes and 9 seconds for those four rowers to make the 7-mile round trip between Alki and Bainbridge during Sound Rowers’ Great Cross-Sound Race this morning. Their quad was listed as entry #1, and that’s where they finished. In second at 53:40, Megan Yount and Bruce Rolfe:
Finishing third and fourth, Evan Jacobs (multiple past winner) in 54:10 (right) and Robert Meenk in 54:31:
No immediate rest at race’s end:
Full list of the almost three dozen entrants and their finishing order is here.
Video: Who’s in the water? iPhone ‘microscope’ shows you Puget Sound creatures you’d never see otherwiseAugust 19, 2014 at 6:38 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 9 Comments
From the ever-creative “Diver Laura” James … a new idea for looking at who and what are in Puget Sound. She says it’s simple as pie to turn an iPhone into a microscope that’ll show you plankton and other micro-organisms in Puget Sound.
And there’s a reason she hopes you’ll look at the videos she’s creating with this rig, even if you don’t try to replicate it yourself:
My goal with these videos is to help show that every drop of our precious Puget Sound is alive, and when we pollute it, the stormwater is not going into just water, but flowing into and poisoning the homes of the foundation of our food web, and a nursery for so many baby critters that it boggles the mind.
See more of the plankton here:
And check out Laura’s YouTube playlist. She says she’s working on a “key” to help plankton viewers know exactly what they’re seeing, too.
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