West Seattle, Washington
3:20 PM: Thanks to Monica Zaborac for the tip and photo – two humpback whales are in the area again! She saw them from a ferry near Southworth, just west of Vashon Island; at least one Orca Network commenter says they’re visible from here (take your binoculars).
12:03 PM: Thanks for the text – orcas are reported in the area! Southbound and possibly along or near West Seattle shores by now, according to Orca Network spotters, who say these are Southern Resident Killer Whales. Let us know if you see them!
12:24 PM: Another texter says they’re off Alki. We’re en route to look.
12:39 PM: Not seeing any unassisted from the Alki Point vicinity but some hardy spotters are out looking. Take binoculars.
12:55 PM: Just heard from Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales. He says some are visible in the Vashon ferry lane, one here, two there, southbound, but not close to the WS side.
1:54 PM: From above Lincoln Park, we’re seeing a few headed along the north end of Vashon, continuing SB.
2:07 PM: And we just received a call from someone seeing more pass by Constellation Park. Thanks – 206-293-6302 voice or text, any time!
Thanks to Gary Jones for the photos, taken around 5:15 pm from Alki Point, as these whales headed southbound:
Looked to Gary, and to us, like humpback whales, and the Orca Network Facebook page also mentions a sighting of what were described as humpbacks about the same time. As we learned from researchers during coverage of the August 7th humpback stranding in Fauntleroy, their population has been increasing dramatically along the West Coast, and sightings have as a result become more common in Puget Sound. Here’s the one-page ID guide from The Whale Trail.
10:28 AM: For water-watchers: Longtime WSB’er MIWS (Mike) tips us that the small private ferry serving Herron Island in the South Sound, Charlie Wells, will be passing West Seattle a bit later this morning. It’s headed to drydock in Ballard and as of this writing MarineTraffic.com shows it northbound in Colvos Passage between west Vashon and east South Kitsap, so it’s likely to come into view near Blake Island before too long. If you happen to get a photo, please share – we might not get down to the water in time. (Here’s a 2013 Flickr pic.)
12:47 PM: Thanks to Greg for the photo we’ve added above!
Two vessel-traffic notes:
USNS WALLY SCHIRRA: Thanks to Greg for sending that photo, right after we spotted the USNS Wally Schirra passing West Seattle, as shown on MarineTraffic.com. It appeared to be headed for the Manchester Fuel Depot. The ship, named for the astronaut, is a cargo ship that’s part of the Military Sealift Command. The seven-year-old, 689-foot ship is homeported in San Diego.
We noticed that ship while researching part of this:
HANJIN UPDATE: A month and a half after the Hanjin bankruptcy filing, one Hanjin ship is anchored off Manchester, while another one is en route to pick up empty containers. The Hanjin Marine is visible from West Seattle if you look west of here, north of Blake Island. Meantime, this Thursday (October 13th), the Hanjin Seattle is scheduled to dock at Terminal 46 downtown, and, according to the Northwest Seaport Alliance, tentatively scheduled to load 1,000 empty containers. The Wall Street Journal reported today that T-46 is one of two West Coast docks – along with a pier in Long Beach, California – that is accepting empty Hanjin containers.
No, it wasn’t another state-ferry breakdown – Washington State Ferries has had some trouble recently, but the M/V Kaleetan‘s tow was NOT part of it. WSF tells WSB that the 49-year-old Kaleetan was towed to Vigor on Harbor Island for maintenance work that’s scheduled to last about a month. (It’s been on the fleet schedule for a while, too.) Thanks to Gary Jones (whose photo is above) and Lynn Hall for sending pics – we’re always up for checking into unusual sightings at sea, email@example.com or (if on your phone) text 206-293-6302.
New from “Diver Laura” James – a 360-degree view of what divers know as the “Alki Junkyard,” off the west end of public Alki shoreline (64th SW).
Laura says, “This was shot with ambient light in the 50’ range; the only lights were on my dive buddy Lamont’s camera. So you can see it’s really quite bright down there during the day (lots of ambient light unless a really heavy plankton bloom), and the diver lights primarily serve to restore the colors (red goes away first, due to the way water absorbs light).”
If you haven’t viewed this type of video before – provided it’s compatible with your browser, you should be able to click “play” and then click the video, using your cursor to “drag” it around, to see above, below, in front, behind … 360 degrees.
P.S. If you follow Diver Laura on Twitter/Periscope, you just might catch her “live” underwater – she’s done a few tests in the past few days.
7:54 AM: No other details, but we just got a call reporting whales visible, northbound, in the Lincoln Park area. Off to check.
8:24 AM: See Krista’s comment for details on what she saw and called in (THANK YOU! 206-293-6302 is our voice/text 24-7 hotline). We’re down along Beach Drive to see if we can spot them. No luck so far, but the water’s pretty choppy.
8:38 AM: Scott e-mailed to say they were visible off north tip of Blake Island – closer to West Seattle side – as of about 10 minutes ago. We’re on the lookout now from the Constellation Park shore.
8:42 AM: They’re passing Constellation Park right now!
8:48 AM: Just out of view from Constellation unless there are far-behind stragglers – passing Alki Point.
9 AM: Now on the west end of Alki Beach Park – where the watchers include Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail, who tells us these are Southern Resident Killer Whales making their autumn salmon-seeking return – J Pod, to be specific. They’re now heading north across the Bainbridge ferry lanes and not likely to be visible from here much longer. We’re adding a phone photo we took from Constellation, hoping someone will have a better one to share (firstname.lastname@example.org) later.
9:43 AM: Thanks to those who are sending photos! We’ve replaced our aforementioned blurry phone photo with much-better contributed shots.
2:32 PM: Thanks to Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail for the tip: She says orcas are in the area right now, between Blake Island and Vashon Island, headed south as of her call at 2:28 pm. They’re closer to the other side, so you need good binoculars to see them, but if you’d rather watch whales than football, get over to Beach Drive and points south! She says they’re believed to be transients, not the Southern Residents.
2:52 PM: We can see them from Upper Fauntleroy – heading southbound along Vashon’s east shore, just south of the ferry lane. Moving fast, and quickly out of our peek view; definitely closer to Vashon than this side.
Within a few months, you’ll see the next new Washington State Ferries vessel, M/V Chimacum, out on sea trials, now that it’s been christened. That happened in a ceremony this morning at Vigor on Harbor Island. Here’s the WSF announcement:
Sunny skies and a shiny new Washington state ferry graced Vigor’s Harbor Island Shipyard in Seattle today as the Washington State Department of Transportation christened Chimacum, the fleet’s third Olympic Class vessel.
In a traditional maritime ceremony, Washington State Ferries Assistant Secretary Lynne Griffith broke a bottle of champagne to officially welcome the new ferry to the fleet. Gov. Jay Inslee, along with Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar and Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent, spoke during the event. The Chimacum High School marching band added to the festivities.
The christening marks the Chimacum’s final stage of construction and its preparation for sea trials.
“The Washington state ferry system is among the best in the world. I am so pleased that the Chimacum is being built efficiently, on-budget and ahead of schedule,” Inslee said. “This is great for the state’s taxpayers and our maritime industry.”
“Chimacum joins a hard-working fleet that connects people and communities as part of our state’s integrated, multimodal transportation system,” Millar said. “Washington’s marine highways carry more than 24 million people every year, so it’s critical for us to replace our oldest ferries and plan for the future.”
“This represents a tremendous achievement for the men and women who have helped build this beautiful vessel,” Griffith said. “I am honored to christen our new ferry and I look forward to riding on Chimacum when she enters service next year.”
The 144-car Chimacum will begin its sea trials in early 2017 and will start carrying passengers on the Seattle/Bremerton route next spring. The Washington State Transportation Commission selected the vessel name in 2014 to honor the gathering place of the Chimacum people, which is now the present-day town of Chimacum near Port Townsend.
Chimacum is the third of four funded Olympic Class ferries that replace the aging, midcentury-era Evergreen State Class vessels. The first Olympic Class vessel, Tokitae, joined the Mukilteo/Clinton route in June 2014. The second, Samish, started service on the Anacortes/San Juan Islands route in June 2015. Suquamish, the fourth vessel in the class, is under construction at Vigor and will enter service in 2019.
Back in May, WSB’s Christopher Boffoli covered a media tour of Chimacum and the keel-laying ceremony for Suquamish – see his photos here.
(Added late Monday afternoon – photo by Trileigh Tucker)
2:11 PM: Just got a report from Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail that orcas – transients, not the Southern Residents – are headed southbound toward Alki Point. And she says they’re reported to be close to this side of the water.
2:44 PM: As of a few minutes ago, an Orca Network sighting report had them near the Vashon ferry.
3:14 PM: Just tweeted by @corybe – the video below, showing the orcas still heading southbound, closer to the Vashon shore, seen from the Fauntleroy-bound ferry:
— Cory Bergman (@corybe) September 5, 2016
What you see above is a new 360-degree video from “Diver Laura” James, a look at the “Junkyard” area off Alki Beach earlier this week, as she and dive buddy Lamont tested a new camera array. If you haven’t viewed this type of video before, it’s an active experience rather than passive – after you hit “play,” click and grab the video to see above, below, and all around. (We enjoyed looking up at the fish swimming near the surface.) Here are the accompanying notes from Laura:
The site is in full summer colors, with healthy looking and very ‘tall’ eelgrass and numerous fish. In the video I think I can make out 3 or 4 separate species of schooling fish. Shiner Perch, sand lance, tube snouts and possibly a salmon swimming through disturbing them all :)
There is still evidence of Sea Star wasting syndrome, when the small sunflower stars reach a certain size (just bigger than my hand) it seems some specimens become susceptible to the disease and proceed to tear themselves apart. There are numerous leather stars, and on the artificial habitat further towards the beach house noted several generations of rockfish from tiny, tiny babies to moderate-size adolescents and an adult or two.
We un-snagged a crab trap that had gotten wrapped around the bathtub and daisy-chained it’s rope so it won’t re-snag. So if a reader happened to have a snagged pot out there, well, it’s now free for you to collect.
Of note, folks should be aware that in the nearshore area there is often a fair bit of ‘habitat’ (read: our cast away junk that becomes home to critters) and it is very easy for the sinky nylon crab pot line to get entangled in the shifting currents and up and down tides. Often these free themselves after a night or so of current/tide changes, but if someone does snag or loose a pot not to far from shore where there is public beach access (and if no beach access maybe they could contact the homeowner and gain one time access), and then perhaps could post to the WSB Forum and that way a local diver could go un-snag it and therefor not have it continue fishing without supervision. This is obviously no guarantee, because the diver would be doing it out of the goodness of her heart, time allowed.
BEHIND THE SCENES: Since sharing the video earlier this week, Diver Laura also has sent a clip showing how she set up the 360 camera, and also her work with the aforementioned crab pot. You can watch that video here.
3:14 PM: For everyone who appreciates a heads-up on offshore sightings: Our friends at Argosy Cruises just pointed out that the tall ship Lady Washington is headed this way. MarineTraffic.com shows it off Normandy Park right now, headed north at about 6 knots. It’s on its way to Kirkland for tours this weekend after a stint in Tacoma.
The Center for Whale Research just announced that one of Puget Sound’s endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales is missing:
J14, a 42-year old female in J pod, is considered missing. Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research last saw her on July 31. Center for Whale Research staff members have since had three on-the-water encounters with the rest of her matriline but she was not present.
J14, also known as Samish – named by the Samish Tribe – was born in 1974, the first year Dr. Mike Bigg, commissioned by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, started studying the Southern Resident killer whales. She has three living offspring: daughters J37 and J40 and son J45; she is also grandmother to J37’s calf J49. J14 is the only known daughter of J12 and a possible descendant of J2.
CWR staff member Melisa Pinnow last photographed J14 from shore on August 3rd. When last seen in July, J14 gave no indication of being sick or otherwise unhealthy.
We will wait to have one more definitive encounter with the J14’s before recording her as indeed deceased.
That’s a Google Street View mapping-photography car we spotted on eastbound Avalon at 35th this afternoon. Google’s 360-degree views from the road have been around for a while, but our sighting coincides with word we got this week that the mapping service is offering something new in our area: Water views.
A PR rep for Google Maps e-mailed WSB to say that West Seattle views on/from the water have recently gone live; the mapping service partnered with Coastwise Imaging, using the Trekker backpack system (you can see the equipment on the Coastwise site).
If you want to see the water views, you can click any of the following four links we were provided – Alki Beach (starting near Anchor/Luna Park), Alki Point, Duwamish Head (starts by Seacrest), and the Duwamish Waterway (starts near Terminal 5, with the image showing the Shell-related vessels that left two months ago) – among 20 Seattle waterway views now available via Google Maps.
Just happened to be at Don Armeni Boat Ramp and saw this U.S. Coast Guard Cutter passing by, headed toward downtown, so we looked it up. It’s the 418-foot USCGC Bertholf, homeported at Alameda, California. It made news in March for busting two drug submarines in less than a year; another article online describes the Bertholf as “the Coast Guard’s most advanced counternarcotics ship.”
P.S. Looks like it’s headed for Vigor on Harbor Island rather than for the Coast Guard station.
P.P.S. … or maybe not. A Vigor spokesperson tells us the Bertholf isn’t due for two more weeks – September 1st – for the work mentioned in the link above.
Thanks to JayDee for the photo from Upper Alki. That’s the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), seen making the turn around south Bainbridge Island this afternoon, due home in Bremerton tonight after a seven-month deployment. We reported on its departure January 15. The Navy says the Stennis and its strike group were deployed to the “Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” including two months in the South China Sea.
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) August 9, 2016
8:40 AM: We’re at the Fauntleroy ferry dock, where a crew from Global Diving and Salvage is getting ready to tow away the carcass of the 39-foot juvenile humpback whale that died on the beach here Sunday (WSB all-day coverage here; photo/video followup here). First, it had to be evaluated:
The whale has been out of view, submerged, since a Washington State Ferries “shore gang” tied it to floats Sunday night and towed it to a spot along the dock where it’s been secured since then.
As we reported last night, Global – which is based in West Seattle – got the call on Monday that its assistance would be needed to dispose of the whale, which is to be sunk in Puget Sound rather than taken to a beach to decompose. Its 62-foot landing-craft-type vessel Prudhoe Bay – also known for bringing the Seafair Pirates to Alki Beach each summer – pulled up just after 8 am:
Global Diving and Salvage executives tell WSB they’ve assisted with whales before – including the fin whale that turned up at Seahurst Park in Burien in 2013.
9:13 AM: The crew has secured floats – and therefore, the whale – to the Prudhoe Bay, and is sailing away from the dock, headed for a “pre-approved” sinking site. (We’ve added video atop this story, and will be adding more photos later.)
4:27 PM UPDATE: Just talked with David DeVilbiss from Global, who confirms the whale has been “respectfully” sent to its final resting place “in about 400 feet of water.” Location not specified, but we’ve noted that MarineTraffic.com showed the Prudhoe Bay off Blake Island most of the day. DeVilbiss adds that a marine biologist was on board and able to get more information about the whale that couldn’t be gathered on the beach – underside markings, for example.
Thanks to Dja for tweeting that photo from Alki with an unmistakable spout in view – if you’re in the area, keep watch for possible sunset sightings of whale(s). Transient orcas have been in central Puget Sound today, according to Orca Network spotters, so the spout might be from one of them. (Some were in Elliott Bay earlier today – see photos here.)
FIRST REPORT, 12:47 PM: We’re just west of Duwamish Head, watching the Seafair fleet come into view for today’s Parade of Ships, running a bit later than past years. The ships are listed here; amphibious transport dock USS Somerset (LPD-25) is in the lead, passing Bainbridge, and should be turning eastward toward Elliott Bay shortly. If you’re headed out to watch, consider an umbrella – looks like more storminess is headed this way, according to Sam from Fleurt, whose daughter Keonii took this photo in The Arroyos earlier this hour.
Ship (and weather, if warranted) updates to come!
1:06 PM: The Somerset is now about to pass us (photo added atop story); behind it, the guided-missile destroyer USS Gridley (DDG 101), and USCGC Active (WMEC-618). At least one helicopter is over Alki to photograph the ships.
1:29 PM: The Gridley (above; homeported in Everett as of this summer) is passing our spot now; off to the east, the Seattle Fire Department fireboat Leschi is putting on a spray show just ahead of the Somerset.
1:52 PM: Short Parade of Ships this year – looks like the Canadian Navy ship due to visit isn’t in it; last ship, the Active (homeported in Port Angeles), has just gone by, headed toward Duwamish Head and the downtown waterfront.
Several smaller USCG vessels have sailed past us too, escorting the three bigger ships. Again, free tours will be offered Wednesday through Sunday – see the Seafair website for where/when.
ADDED 3:28 PM: Thanks to everyone who shared photos! From Lance Merkin, a closer look at some of the people – and an aircraft – on the Somerset:
Kyle Asplund caught fireboat Leschi passing Luna/Anchor Park:
And Gary Jones photographed the Somerset, Gridley, and Active from Alki Point:
P.S. The storm never did show up!
This one, we haven’t solved yet. Lots of texts – a few with photos, including the one above – wondering about this: A low-flying helicopter was off Alki for a while this evening, near a yacht at one point, near an Argosy Cruises boat at another point. Neither the boat nor the helicopter showed on trackers, so we haven’t figured out yet who/what/why – from some past stories, looked to us like a possible photo shoot. Any info, we’d love to hear it, in comments or via e-mail – email@example.com – thanks!
8:28 AM: If you want to watch the tribal canoes’ departure for the next stop on the Paddle to Nisqually journey, get down to Alki fast. The first canoe has just departed, after its skipper called out thanks to the Muckleshoots for hosting them here while they travel to the Nisqually Nation. They’re headed to Tacoma, so you should be able to see them off Beach Drive and points south, too.
8:48 AM: The pace of the departures is picking up.
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) July 28, 2016
9:35 AM: Most of the canoes have headed out, and the flotilla of motorized spectator/support boats is departing too. More photos after we get back to HQ.
10:48 AM: Thanks to Harley Broe for this view from Beach Drive:
1:55 PM: And David Hutchinson shares these views from Alki Point:
Yes, that’s a real buoy in the background of the photo immediately above. The usually-annual canoe journey, as explained on the Paddle to Nisqually site’s “about” page (where you’ll also find the history), is for “… bringing together natives and non-natives with a common goal of providing a drug and alcohol free event and offering pullers a personal journey towards healing and recovery of culture, traditional knowledge and spirituality. … Canoe Journey gatherings are rich in meaning and cultural significance. Canoe families travel great distances as their ancestors did and participating in the journey requires physical and spiritual discipline. At each stop, canoe families follow certain protocols, they ask for permission to come ashore, often in their native languages. At night in longhouses there is gifting, honoring and the sharing of traditional prayers, drumming, songs and dances. Meals, including evening dinners of traditional foods, are provided by the host nations.”
This year’s journey will end in southernmost Puget Sound on Saturday, where tens of thousands of people are expected to welcome the canoe families as they land. One week of ceremonies and celebrations will follow.