— NOAA Fisheries NWFSC (@NOAAFish_NWFSC) February 26, 2015
Announced this morning – the third calf born to Puget Sound’s resident orcas in the past two months! First came the two babies born to J Pod – we learned about J50 in late December, and then two weeks ago J51 was spotted; and today, NOAA Fisheries announces a baby seen with L Pod as its scientists tracked the whales off the seacoast. “The calf looked very energetic,” NOAA’s Brad Hanson reported.
While whale experts warn that mortality rates are high even in the best of times, this is nonetheless yet another sign of hope for the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. As noted when we covered one of The Whale Trail‘s orca talks here in West Seattle last fall, the resident pods previously hadn’t seen a birth in two years, and that calf did not survive.
(Click picture to see larger image)
With the county launching Water Taxi Watch and planning the debut of the new Vashon Island Water Taxi M/V Sally Fox for late March, we asked how construction is proceeding with West Seattle’s new vessel, the M/V Doc Maynard. In response, the county Department of Transportation shared the photo taken at All American Marine in Bellingham, where, KCDOT spokesperson Rochelle Ogershok says, “Last week the engines were inserted into the hull and the cabin was also attached to the hull. We are still on target for delivery of the vessel this fall.”
When the new vessels are both in service, the county plans to keep Spirit of Kingston, the current West Seattle Water Taxi, as a backup. It has already stopped leasing the SoK’s predecessor Rachel Marie – which went into service on the West Seattle run in 2010 – and will do so with the current Vashon vessel Melissa Ann. The two new boats’ cost will total $11.8 million, 80 percent of which is being covered by federal funding.
P.S. The Water Taxi’s 7-day-a-week schedule resumes April 6th.
(Screengrab from Water Taxi Watch)
Wondering where your Water Taxi is? Just announced:
The King County Marine Division (KCMD) is excited to announce that we have gone live with our Water Taxi Watch system.
Water Taxi Watch, modeled after Washington State Ferries’ (WSF) very popular VesselWatch, allows you to track vessels on our routes in real time, including their position, speed, and direction. You can also find arrival and departure schedules and other useful information on the site. Hopefully the next foggy morning you are down at the dock and cannot see your vessel, you will be able to use this new tool to track the status of your boat.
This project was funded by a Federal Transit Administration technology grant and is a collaborative effort between WSF and the King County Marine Division. Please visit our website at kingcounty.gov/watertaxi for a link to this exciting new feature!
(Note: The site currently lists the vessel’s estimated arrival time. This is an estimate based on the scheduled crossing time added to the actual departure time and does not account for weather or other delays during the crossing)
The direct link is here – it’s hosted on the Washington State Ferries website (you’ll notice that it lists WSF vessels as well), and as noted in the announcement, is reachable via a button from the Water Taxi homepage.
SIDE NOTE: While there’s no official announcement from the county yet (we’re checking), BikeVashon says the first new Water Taxi, M/V Sally Fox (which will be on the Seattle-Vashon route), is expected to be dedicated March 28th.
We don’t know who it was (do you?), but – James Bratsanos shared these views of a powered paraglider, cruising over the south West Seattle shoreline this afternoon.
A bit further north, Beach Drive Blog spotted the flyer too.
One day after the tentative contract agreement between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association (terminal operators) was announced, the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma have sent their official comment:
The ports of Seattle and Tacoma are relieved to hear of the tentative deal between the ILWU and PMA.
Operations at our terminals will resume Saturday evening. We are uncertain how long it will take to move the remaining cargo on our docks and awaiting vessels, and to assess the effects this has had on our gateway.
Our combined ports support more than 200,000 jobs throughout the region, many of them depending on the freight moving through our terminals.
We will do everything we can to support our customers in getting this gateway back to our high standards of reliability and efficiency.
MarineTraffic.com shows no container ships at anchor in Elliott Bay right now, but three off Manchester, a holding zone for Tacoma. No word, meantime, when ratification votes will happen.
Late-night extra – another peek beneath the surface, courtesy of “Diver Laura” James. This is likely the first in a series of glimpses into the undersea world beyond the most-popular dive spots near Seacrest; in this short video, she shows you around at Cormorant Cove, the city park off Beach Drive by the Harbor West condos-on-pilings.
P.S. While you won’t see them because they were tucked away in crevices, Laura says “some surviving Ochre Sea Stars (the purple ones) and some young Mottled Stars (the orange ones)” were in view. She also calls our attention to South Sound U.S. Rep. Denny Heck‘s reintroduction of a bill to provide federal help to try to solve marine-disease emergencies like sea-star wasting syndrome – read about it here.
Two notes on the ongoing contract-talks stalemate between West Coast port-terminal operators and longshore workers:
(Northeastward view over ships anchored off Manchester; photo by Long Bach Nguyen)
TERMINALS CLOSED AGAIN TODAY: Today is the fourth day (of the past five) that terminals remain closed to ship offloading by order of the Pacific Maritime Association, the umbrella organization for terminal operators on the West Coast. So far, they’re expected to reopen tomorrow; that could mean major truck traffic on roads to local terminals, such as lower Spokane St. and East Marginal, which backed up last Friday when terminals reopened after the first day of closure. Nine cargo ships are anchored off Seattle and Manchester today, as shown on MarineTraffic.com (and in the photos with this story)
(Bulk-cargo ships anchored off Magnolia, seen from West Seattle; photo by Chris Panarello; [added Tuesday] note – commenter points out the grain terminal is not part of the current situation)
LABOR SECRETARY IN SAN FRANCISCO TOMORROW: There’s an update today on the plan for U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez to intervene by talking with the PMA and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union: The Bay Area’s NBC station reports via Twitter that Perez will meet with both sides in San Francisco tomorrow. No details yet.
Another birth announcement for Puget Sound’s endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales – and, like the last one, this new baby has been spotted in J-Pod. Orca Network sent the news release and photo on behalf of the Center for Whale Research:
After spending the past two weeks near the west entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, J pod finally came back into the interior Salish Sea waters and showed off another brand new baby whale to the few observers that braved the mist and light rain and watched the whales swim by from land and from vessels at respectful distance.
Dave Ellifrit from the Center for Whale Research, and Jeanne Hyde who first heard the whales on Lime Kiln hydrophone this morning, embarked on the Center ‘s research vessel “Chimo” to Haro Strait while CWR Senior Scientist, Ken Balcomb, watched from shore and managed communications.
The late December calf, J50, with its J16 family were seen today as well; but, the big news is that J19 and J41 were swimming protectively on either side on another new baby that we estimate is about one week old. This newest addition to J pod is designated J51, and the presumed mother is thirty-six year old J19. Her ten-year old daughter, J41, was also in attendance. The newest baby appears healthy.
This brings us to twenty-six whales in J pod, the most viable pod in the Endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population of the US and Canada Pacific Northwest. K pod has 19 individuals, and L pod has 34 individuals for a total population of 79 SRKW’s as of today. That number can change anytime with the birth or death of one of these charismatic whales.
12:55 PM: Orcas were spotted off Bainbridge Island within the past hour or so, headed toward Alki (thanks to Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales for the alert, which is also on Orca Network‘s Facebook page). Let us know if you spot them!
2:06 PM: No reports yet from local waters but some have been spotted southbound off the east side of Vashon Island – you’d need really good binoculars to see from here.
Terminal operators at ports including Seattle say they’ll shut down for the weekend, as the contract-talks stalemate with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union continues. The announcement comes in this statement from the Pacific Maritime Association, which says “weekend vessel loading and unloading operations will be temporarily suspended this weekend, with yard, rail and gate operations continuing at terminal operators’ discretion.” No comment yet from the ILWU, but its president was quoted yesterday as decrying the PMA’s previously voiced “threat” to close ports, made as the terminal operators’ organization went public with its latest contract offer.
Locally, the Port of Seattle’s newest online schedule shows six vessels due on Saturday/Sunday (one of them, NYK Daedalus, is already anchored in Elliott Bay, and another, ZIM Djibouti, is anchored off Manchester).
(M/V Tillikum with Seahawks-fan flags in September 2013; photo by Paul Brannan)
Just like last year, Washington State Ferries is giving its vessels honorary temporary names on Sunday, as a show of support for the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Here are the three that sail out of Fauntleroy:
M/V Issaquah: “M/V Russell Okung”
M/V Tillikum: “M/V Kevin Williams”
M/V Evergreen State: “M/V Byron Maxwell”
11:07 AM: Thanks to Trileigh for sounding the alert that Orca Network tipsters are reporting orcas headed north in Colvos Passage on the west side of Vashon – which means they might be visible from here at some point soon. The fog is of course complicating things, and even without fog, the whales might stay along the western shore of the sound, but we wanted to make sure you knew.
2:11 PM: The whales have gone into Rich Passage, which leads to Bremerton, as of the newest comments on the same Orca Network post we’ve linked above.
Some Puget Sound seabird species ‘may be turning the corner’ in a good way, 7-year analysis suggestsJanuary 20, 2015 at 4:38 pm | In Environment, Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 5 Comments
(All photos in this story are by Mark Wangerin. Above, rhinoceros auklet)
A glimmer of good news about the health of Puget Sound and some of its wildlife. This news release arrived via NOAA, but much of the work was done by volunteers:
A new analysis of seven years of bird sightings by volunteer birdwatchers from the Seattle Audubon Society has found positive trends in several Puget Sound seabird species that had been in historic decline.
The study tracked the occurrence of 18 seabird species at 62 sites around Puget Sound and found increased presence of 14 species, including cormorants, loons, rhinoceros auklets, and harlequin ducks. It also documented local hotspots for certain species, which may reflect especially important habitat or prey the birds depend on.
“This means that all other things being equal, if someone goes out now they’re more likely to see these birds than they would have been seven years ago,” said Eric Ward, an ecologist at NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle and lead author of the research.
Many seabird species are thought to have declined around Puget Sound since the 1960s and 1970s but the new results suggest the trends have turned up for many species.
(WSB photo, August 8, 2014, from Seattle/Sunset viewpoint in North Admiral)
In this week that’s already had two aircraft-carrier sightings off West Seattle – USS John C. Stennis heading out for training, USS Nimitz moving from Everett to Bremerton for maintenance – we have one more carrier note. Remember the coverage last August as the USS Constellation was towed out, headed down the Pacific Coast, around Cape Horn, up through the Caribbean and to Brownsville, Texas, to be scrapped? Oceangoing tug Corbin Foss, with the “Connie” in tow, is now arriving after five months – the timeline projected back last summer – and expected to finish the journey by tomorrow. The Foss website has kept up its “tow blog” with periodic data entries.
Arctic-drilling support at West Seattle’s Terminal 5? After intense debate, Port Commission supports proposed Foss lease, but…January 13, 2015 at 4:20 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 28 Comments
(UPDATED 9:54 PM with chronicle of how the discussion unfolded)
(October 2014 photo by Peter West Carey, shared via Twitter)
The issue of whether to pursue a lease with Foss Maritime, temporarily taking part of closed-for-modernization Terminal 5 to support Shell‘s Arctic drilling operations (here’s our previous report), wasn’t supposed to be up for a vote; on this afternoon’s Seattle Port Commission agenda, it was just a briefing.
But after more than 20 public commenters at the meeting, held at Sea-Tac Airport, and intense discussion between commissioners, Commissioner Courtney Gregoire said she believed they had to give staff direction – and so they did, not via an actual vote, but via opinions: Three commissioners (Stephanie Bowman, John Creighton, and Bill Bryant) said basically, they’re not in favor of Arctic drilling, but not allowing this lease to go forward wouldn’t make a difference, so they feel they have to support it, given the hundreds of jobs and ~$28 million revenue it would bring. Two (Gregoire and Tom Albro) said they felt the port, with its “green gateway” mission, should not become the “homeport of Shell Arctic drilling support.”
But beyond a decision on this matter, commissioners did voice support for coming up with a port “energy policy” that could set guidelines for any future decisions along these lines, and possibly other actions that the port could take to support a clean-energy future, beyond policies and procedures it’s already implemented.
We’ve been monitoring the entire discussion, held at Sea-Tac Airport, via live video, and live tweeting at @westseattleblog. If you don’t use Twitter, you can see our three hours of tweets (interspersed with a few other stories) in the box below – reverse-chronological order, just scroll through:
And we’re writing up notes in a more-conventional manner to add here as soon as we can.
ADDED 9:54 PM: Scroll or click ahead for our narrative:
(WSB photo by Patrick Sand, substituted for tweeted version shown here earlier)
9:43 AM: Thanks to the texter (206-293-6302) who called our attention to the Kitsap Sun‘s report that the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) is en route from Everett to Bremerton right now, for 16 months of maintenance. Naval Base Kitsap says via Facebook that it’s expected to arrive around 11:30, so if you can’t see it from West Seattle shores yet, it can’t be far. It’ll be the second consecutive day of aircraft-carrier sightings – the USS John C. Stennis headed northbound yesterday, leaving Bremerton for more training.
10:29 AM: Looking north from the Alki promenade, we’re seeing it in the distance now, passing West Point.
11:08 AM: Back from watching until it turned into Rich Passage.
(Update: Photos added, including Greg Snyder‘s view of the turn, above.)
The view from the deck of the Stennis, by photog Meegan M. Reid. Carrier is headed out for training. pic.twitter.com/RCTrmxt5ks
— KitsapSun (@KitsapSun) January 12, 2015
Aaron texted us about an aircraft carrier passing Alki Point right now and at first we thought it had to be the USS Nimitz, expected to be Bremerton-bound sometime this week, postponed from last week. But no, it’s the USS John C. Stennis, headed out for training again, per the Kitsap Sun (whose photo tweet you see above).
ADDED: Thanks to Lynn Shimamoto for catching a good look at the Stennis and sharing the photo:
No exact date yet for the Nimitz’s trip from Everett to Bremerton, by the way.
(Photo courtesy Center for Whale Research: Mom J16 and newborn J50)
One week after announcing the birth of baby orca J50, the Center for Whale Research says J50 is female – especially good news provided she beats the odds and survives, since that pod in particular has been short on breeding-age females. In a release on its website, the center also says it hasn’t quite sorted out the questions about which orca is J50′s mom – you’ve probably heard that while she was originally believed to be the calf of 43-year-old J16, experts have reasons to suspect that J16 might actually be J50′s grandmother. Whoever her mom is, ~2-week-old J50 was seen with her family, doing well, today in the northern Strait of Georgia in British Columbia
(December 2010: USS Nimitz and Vashon Water Taxi, photographed from West Seattle by Gary Jones)
If you notice a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier southbound in the distance sometime in the next few days, that’ll be the USS Nimitz (CVN 68). It’s heading back to Bremerton for 16 months of maintenance, which means that Naval Base Kitsap will be home for a while to two carriers, including the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). As for when to watch for the Nimitz making the relatively short trip to Bremerton, though it was announced at one point for today, the Everett Herald now reports it’ll be tomorrow.
The orcas seen off West Seattle on Saturday weren’t the “transients” who spent so much time recently in the South Sound. Instead, expert whale-watchers identified them as members of J Pod, one of the three groups of endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. Federal researchers hoping to help save the SRKW from extinction are trying to find out more about where J-Pod orcas, in particular, goes when they are not here at “home,” so once again this year, they have tagged a member of the pod. According to this report on the Northwest Fisheries Science Center website, researchers tagged J27 yesterday, while J Pod was northbound through north Puget Sound. What little they know from previous tries suggests that, more than the other two SRKW pods, this one stays closer to home. Finding out more, they say, can help them identify “critical habitat” among other things. They promise to update the page from which we got the map you see above – follow it here.
— Andrew Malinak (@AndrewSwims) December 27, 2014
(Added: The every-Saturday-morning Alki swim included an orca sighting!)
9:33 AM: When last we heard of whales in the area, it was late Friday, and some were reported to be heading northbound in this direction, off the east side of Vashon. Don’t know if they are the same ones, but we have multiple reports of orcas off the 1500 block of Alki right now, for starters, plus an Orca Network Facebook report of orcas off Alki Point a short time ago, possibly visible off West Seattle. We’re off to look; let us know of any sightings!
10:02 AM: Very choppy water on the west-facing shore; followed up a text about orcas at Emma Schmitz Overlook but no luck.
10:47 AM: Just saw two southbound from Brace Point!
Orcas are headed this way, northbound, most recently seen off Vashon Island, roughly parallel with Burien’s Seahurst Park, according to commenters on the Orca Network Facebook page; we’ve also received general tips via Facebook and Twitter. They apparently are the “transient” orcas that have spent a lot of time in the South Sound lately. We’re off to look; please let us know if you see them off our shores – we have barely an hour of light left!
'King tide' scene: At Seacrest, floating Water Taxi dock almost level with non-floating fishing pier pic.twitter.com/l1ra1WNrwh
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) December 26, 2014
As noted here last night, we’re in the midst of three days at which the morning high tides are part of this year’s “king tides.” So we went out today to see what that might bring. The photo above, from Seacrest, was about as dramatic as it got. (added) At nearby Don Armeni, the water was almost up to parking lot/drive-path level:
We checked Alki a few minutes later, and the water wasn’t even over the seawall – see for yourself in this video shared by Joe Szilagyi, who was also out investigating:
Nothing at all like the wind-fueled post-Thanksgiving sights on Alki (and no doubt waterfront residents are relieved!). Tomorrow morning’s high tide, just after 9 am, will also be 13 feet, and that’s it for the official “king tides” until a stretch in January.
(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.
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