West Seattle, Washington
This morning’s sighting post was a long time ago so we’re starting a new one – multiple reports of orcas visible off Alki Beach right now. While one report has them around 58th and Alki, they’re also reported to be heading north.
9:48 AM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip – take your binoculars and look toward Blake Island, where a sizable group of orcas is reported to be passing, southbound!
12:06 PM: They’re still southbound, Kersti reports – and they’re transient orcas. Now off Burien’s Three Tree Point, she says.
7:57 PM: And now they’re northbound, seen passing Alki a short time ago, per comment and e-mail.
It’s been about four weeks since the carrier returned from two months of exercises.
Carol e-mailed us after seeing the Marine Spill Response Corporation‘s bright-blue-hulled W.C. Park Responder off Blake Island all day Tuesday, wondering if it was there to handle an incident. We couldn’t find any indication of that but contacted MSRC to be sure; spokesperson Keely Fitzpatrick replied, “The WC Park Responder is, in fact, participating in training today. As you can imagine, maintaining a competent workforce both, internal and contractor, is paramount to our organization’s success.” Here’s more about the vessel, which is based in Port Angeles. (Sorry, no pic.)
Two reports of up to six orcas seen south of Alki Point in the past hour. Kersti Muul says they were headed southwest toward Blake Island/Manchester. It’s been squalling again, so you would want to take an umbrella as well as binoculars if you go look!
Thanks to Kersti Muul for calling our attention to an Orca Network-reported sighting of orcas between Vashon and Southworth, headed northeast “toward Seattle,” as of about an hour ago. Tomorrow, Kersti will be one of three Whale Scout volunteer naturalists helping celebrate Orca Month with you on West Seattle beaches – she’ll be at Lowman Beach [map], Thorly James will be at Colman Pool [map] in Lincoln Park, and Susann Babaei will be at Constellation Park [map]. That’s noon-2 pm Sunday, and they’ll be ready to talk with you about “Whales in Your Neighborhood” while scouting for them!
Thanks to Huck for the photo (and thanks to Diane for sending one too) – that’s the new mega-ship Norwegian Bliss, docked at Pier 66 downtown after arriving early this morning. It’s so new, it’ll be christened while here today. As we mentioned just before cruise season began last month, the Bliss becomes the largest cruise ship homeported on the West Coast, at 1,082 feet long, carrying up to 4,000 passengers and 1,716 crew members. Its regular schedule this summer will be Saturday arrivals/departures for weeklong Alaska cruises.
Thanks to Gary Jones for the photo – a few orcas, transients according to Orca Network, were back in view from West Seattle this afternoon, though closer to the Kitsap side. Gary saw them from Alki Point in the noon hour; ON’s last reported sighting, less than an hour ago, was still off south Bainbridge.
9:31 AM: Just texted by Kersti Muul and by Alisa Lemire Brooks from Orca Network – at least 10 orcas reported in/near the Southworth ferry lane, northbound. On the Kitsap side, so if you’re going to go look from this side, good binoculars are a must! Let us know if you see them.
10:24 AM: As of a few minutes ago, per the Denniston Family in comments, “They are directly in front of Manchester by the big ship.” (Not sure where Manchester is? Here’s a map.)
A Canadian pipeline controversy drew protesters to the waters off West Seattle today. The flotilla was part of a day of sea and land demonstrations against Kinder Morgan, which has a terminal on Harbor Island. The company plans to expand its Trans Mountain Pipeline, from the Alberta tar sands to British Columbia, and opponents say that would mean a dramatic increase in oil tankers traveling in waters that are home to the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales, among other concerns.
Along with the kayak and canoe protesters, who ended up launching from east of Seacrest Pier, there were rallies and marching on land, including at Jack Perry Park along East Marginal, where a participant texted us this photo:
Here’s some backstory on the pipeline expansion, first proposed 4 1/2 years ago, and the controversy.
ADDED SUNDAY NIGHT: Two more West Seattle photos, shared by David Hutchinson:
Thanks to Gary Jones (above) and Scott Lipsky (below) for photos of U.S. Coast Guard sea and air crews in action off West Seattle shores at midday today.
We checked with the Coast Guard’s 13th District public-affairs office to be sure this was practice, not a search, and they confirm, “It was just training.”
This is part of the SYC’s Tri-Island race series, which concludes with the Blake Island Race in three weeks, on June 2nd.
Just after someone else texted about seeing that ship off south Bainbridge, Jim Borrow sent the photo. It’s a Military Sealift Command dry cargo/ammunition ship, USNS Carl Brashear (T-AKE 7). Looks like some work is ahead for the nine-year-old vessel, named for Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate Carl Brashear (1931–2006), the first African-American to become a US Navy Master Diver.
That photo is from Jim Borrow; thanks to everyone who sent word of that submarine passing West Seattle a little more than an hour ago. Since many military vessels don’t show up on trackers, we haven’t yet figured out which one it is.
10:16 AM: Thanks to Jim Borrow for the photos! Along with everything else happening today, it’s the first day of shrimp fishing in Elliott Bay – until 1 pm or until the limit is caught, as explained in the state Department of Fish and Wildlife announcement.
Jim explains that photo”was taken toward Bainbridge Island; you can see a few boats off Alki in the foreground with the buoys for the shrimp pots near the boats. In the background you can see all the small boats in the area around Blakely Rocks near Bainbridge.” And keep in mind that with the 1 pm closing (west of Alki Point, it’s even earlier – 11 am), it will be very busy around Don Armeni Boat Ramp early this afternoon. The state hasn’t yet announced the next date(s).
ADDED SATURDAY EVENING: Above and below, two photos from our pass through Don Armeni as many boaters were leaving just before 1 pm.
2:03 PM: Thanks for the tip! Orcas are in the area this afternoon – just got a report that at least three are visible southbound between Blake and Vashon Island. As always, if you’re going to go look, take binoculars. And let us know if/when you see them!
3:00 PM: Kersti Muul just texted to say they’re visible south of the Vashon ferry dock, on the Vashon side.
4:42 PM: Thanks to the texter who reports seeing a lone whale – bigger than an orca, they believe – headed west along Alki, off Anchor/Luna Park a little while ago. We’re not seeing any other reports of what’s in the area, but earlier this week heard about at least one lone dolphin/porpoise sighting. So let us know if you see it too! (And if you’re an orca fan… remember The Whale Trail‘s Orca Talk in just a few hours – details in our preview.)
5:48 PM: More sightings reported in comments – but no confirmed ID yet.
Thanks to Carolyn Newman for the photos! A few hours ago, the yachts in the Clipper Round-the-World Race headed out of Elliott Bay, northbound in Puget Sound toward the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the open ocean.
According to the race website, the next leg takes the crews to Panama, and that should take about 26 days. Of course, a fireboat salute was part of today’s sendoff.
8:17 PM: Thanks to Carolyn Newman for the photo of the Norwegian Sun, maneuvering before sailing away tonight for a two-and-a-half week cruise to Florida (after a stop in Victoria), first cruise ship to visit Seattle this year. We previewed the upcoming season on Wednesday. Next scheduled ship: Ruby Princess, April 28th (one week from Saturday).
9:19 PM: As a commenter and texter point out, and as MarineTraffic.com confirms, the ship is back in the middle of Elliott Bay. Don’t know why, but we’re trying to find out.
9:31 PM: And now it’s headed back out of the bay, up to 11 knots per MT.
From our “what you saw/will see at sea” file – tomorrow you’ll see the first cruise ship of the season in Elliott Bay, on its way to (and from) Pier 66 on the downtown waterfront. The Norwegian Sun, currently docked in Victoria, B.C., is scheduled to be here on Thursday for a 5 pm departure on a cruise that will take it through the Panama Canal and on to Florida. According to the Port of Seattle, this will be one of 215 cruise-ship visits this season (here’s the schedule), bringing in 1.1 million passengers, half a billion dollars in revenue, $19 million in state/local taxes. Norwegian Cruise Line will make an even bigger splash on May 30th, when its Norwegian Bliss becomes the largest cruise ship homeported on the West Coast – 1,082 feet long, 4,000 passengers, 1,716 crew members.
P.S. We asked port spokesperson Peter McGraw when the Sun will sail in tomorrow. Reply: Around 3 am.
Recent sightings off our shores:
Gary Jones photographed FVF Chenega, fast-ferry catamaran from the Alaska Marine Highway System, this afternoon as it was under tow northbound in Puget Sound. Online research reveals it’s been docked at Vigor‘s Tacoma facility for a year and a half. Earlier this year, Alaska sought bids for towing it to Ketchikan by the end of this month.
Speaking of Vigor, the company is involved with another passenger ferry sighting from a week and a half ago:
Carolyn Newman sent that photo on March 30th, but we didn’t get to share it at the time. She spotted it off Vigor, which has been building new foot ferries for the San Francisco Bay fleet and is scheduled to deliver two this year – building the hulls at its Ballard yard, the rest on Harbor Island.
11:53 AM: Thanks to Paula Grassell for the photo from Alki – that’s the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), headed out this morning. It’s one of two aircraft carriers based at Bremerton, but you won’t see the other one off our shores for a while – the USS Nimitz is getting maintenance work for the next year. The Stennis has been out for various training periods in recent months, getting ready for an upcoming deployment, but there’s no official word yet on this voyage.
12:48 PM: And thanks to Tom Stoner for this photo: