(Click image for larger view)
Dennis Cheasebro shared that photo of what he believes was a humpback whale, spotted off West Seattle today:
Photographed at 1:34 PM, February 16, 2014, from the Lincoln Park bluff. It was breaching, tail flipping and swimming fast southward, close to shore. I’ve never seen a humpback before, but the small, dull-pointed dorsal fin on top of a low hump seems to be diagnostic.
8:05 PM: Our experience with humpbacks is limited to their distinctive flukes, through binoculars, in Alaska. We’ve looked around at various whale-sighting sites and no other reports of this today; the species-ID page on The Whale Trail‘s site seems to affirm Dennis’s ID. Any other confirmations/opinions/sightings?
9:04 PM UPDATE: Thanks to Kelly for pointing out, in comments, photos published to TWT’s Facebook page not long after we published this – so, humpback it is!
More news on the way … but in case you don’t have a westward view, we didn’t want these photos of the Olympic Mountains, out this morning in all their sunlit glory, to go to waste. Thanks to Alia Ali for sharing the top view from Fauntleroy; the view below was caught from Duwamish Head by WSB co-publisher Patrick Sand.
We’ll confess we can’t name the peaks in Alia’s photo, but we do know the WSB photo shows The Brothers, 6842 feet elevation on the south, 6650 on the north. And check out West Seattle photographer Long B. Nguyen‘s Olympics gallery!
One of the region’s most dedicated orca watchers, Alisa Lemire Brooks, recorded that video while watching the pod of transient killer whales sighted in central Puget Sound on Saturday, in the Edmonds area, thought at one point (as mentioned here) to be headed southbound for a while. For orca fans, we have to share this video in case you haven’t seen it already, particularly because of one moment – around 3:10, one of the orcas breaches, fully out of the water, and since they weren’t too far offshore, it’s a much better view than usual. The “transients” are also known as Bigg’s killer whales, and have one big difference from the “resident” orcas – they eat marine mammals such as seals and sea lions; the residents eat fish. Hat tip to the Orca Network, whose Facebook page is where we found the link to Alisa’s video.
There’s a chance we will see orcas off our shores before the day’s out, according to sightings reported on the Orca Network Facebook page – they’ve been seen as close as south Bainbridge Island. Conflicting reports about which direction they’re heading, so we’re sharing this alert just in case. Please let us know if you see them from West Seattle – 206-293-6302 is our breaking-news line, text or voice any time – thanks!
(M/V Tillikum, aka Michael Robinson, with Seahawks-fan flags in September; photo by Paul Brannan)
Washington State Ferries is honorarily and temporarily renaming its vessels after Seahawks on Super Bowl Sunday, according to this news release. The big names go to the boats on the big routes, like Seattle-Bainbridge; for the three vessels currently on the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth route, you will be traveling Sunday on:
M/V Issaquah: “M/V Russell Okung”
M/V Klahowya: “M/V Bruce Irvin”
M/V Tillikum: “M/V Michael Robinson”
(Full list here.) We will be adding this to the WSB West Seattle Super Bowl page – where we’re collecting a variety of Big Game-related info (and updating until game day – email@example.com – thanks!).
(First 2 photos by WSB’s Patrick Sand)
8:02 AM: Several people have messaged us wondering about at least one Seattle Police boat searching off Alki. Just talked with SPD media-relations Det. Mark Jamieson, who says someone called in early this morning after spotting a “fixed light” off Alki that the caller thought MIGHT be a boat in distress. So police have been out looking, but haven’t found any evidence so far of anyone in or having been in trouble.
8:22 AM UPDATE: Per scanner discussion, the Harbor Patrol boat spotted some kind of “object” in about 10 feet of water, and it’s been “marked.”
9:04 AM UPDATE: Added photos. The Coast Guard was out helping search, too.
(Photo by Don Brubeck)
Thanks to Cheryl for sending word of the sighting – she texted to say it was “right off the Water Taxi dock for the 8:45 sailing … heading toward Salty’s as we pulled away. Tail slaps, surface blows, and fluke waves. Amazing!” (206-293-6302 any time with breaking news, text or voice, and yes, a whale sighting is breaking news!)
You’ve seen the pups onshore, you’ve seen the adults briefly peek from the water before submerging … but unless you’re a diver, you just don’t get this kind of look at harbor seals. The occasion was somber – “Diver Laura” James was back off Seacrest, checking on the dying sea-star population – but she and her diving companion were delighted by the harbor seals who joined them, as their video shows. While to the untrained eye, the seals might seem to be looking for something they’re just not finding, Laura says that’s not it at all: “Very typical for the West Seattle harbor seals. They were hunting for the little golden fish that are illuminated by our dive lights. They’ve learned through the years that divers are great as ‘hunting assistants’ and they utilize our dive lights to help them capture shiner perch for dinner. They actually teach their offspring (or the smaller seals) to do it.”
As for the sea stars – no good news, nor even answers, yet; separate update to come.
12:18 PM: Whale-watching alert on this sunny Sunday: Orcas are back in central Puget Sound and headed southbound past West Seattle – Trileigh Tucker just called from Lincoln Park, where she has them in view.
12:33 PM: Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail just called with an update; she’s also watching the orcas from Lincoln Park and says they are headed “slowly south” – they’re now south of the Fauntleroy-Vashon ferry lane.
ADDED EARLY MONDAY: Alisa Lemire Brooks, expert whale-watcher and photographer, shared this video via the Orca Network Facebook page, from the Sunday visit:
Thanks to Russ Walker for the photo from Alki this morning, a 13.3-foot high tide, tied with 8:04 am tomorrow for highest predicted Seattle tide of the year. While the lack of stormy weather meant it was a rather placid scene, it’s still important for those – like the state Ecology Department – who are tracking these tides, called “king tides,” to document “how very high tides affect the natural environment and our coastal infrastructure (to) help us visualize what sea-level rise might look like in the future.” If you took (or take) photos, share them with the Ecology Department’s Flickr group (as Russ and other West Seattle photographers did).
(First two photos by Craig Young)
Looked to us like the biggest Alki Beach New Year’s Day Polar Bear Swim yet!
Organizer Mark Ufkes (below) thought that was a fair assessment.
(This and subsequent photos/video by WSB’s Patrick Sand unless otherwise credited)
Here’s our video as the hundreds of participants took the plunge from 42-degree air into 46-degree water:
12:42 PM: More photos added, ahead:
(New Year’s Day 2013 photo by Nick Adams)
Four people have asked about it in the past half-hour, so we’re thinking more than a few missed our first word on December 22nd that the Alki Beach Polar Bear Swim is definitely ON again tomorrow. So – here’s the reminder! 10 am New Year’s Day, gather on the beach across from Duke’s (map); better to be early than late, says organizer Mark Ufkes. As he observes, “This is a great way to wash away the complexities of 2013 and welcome the unlimited possibilities of 2014.”
The photo (click for a larger view) is by Katheryne Martinez, who shared it on the WSB Facebook page, asking for help identifying what kind of fish the cormorants were fighting over. We seem to have a winning answer, “sculpin” – though opinions varied from there – but we wanted to share the photo here too. Katheryne caught the cormorants on camera near Don Armeni Boat Ramp.
3:08 PM: Latest update on orcas headed this way: Donna from The Whale Trail says they are still reported southbound, off Richmond Beach, so whether we see them here before nightfall depends on how fast they are moving, among other factors.
4:07 PM UPDATE: Still north of Elliott Bay, according to commenters on the Orca Network Facebook page.
(2013 Polar Bear Swim photo by Nick Adams for WSB)
Three people have asked about this in the past two days, so we sought out confirmation: Organizer Mark Ufkes says yes, the annual Polar Bear Swim at Alki is on again for 2014. Be at the beach across from Duke’s by 10 am – better yet, he says, “get there a little early” – on Wednesday, January 1st, 2014: “We go in the water at 10 sharp after a count down. Bring water shoes, towel, change of clothes. Hot chocolate and Duke’s clam chowder will be served. This is a great way to wash away the complexities of 2013 and welcome the unlimited possibilities of 2014.”
P.S. We’re adding this to the WSB Holiday Events/Info Guide, which always runs through New Year’s Eve/Day, so if you haven’t sent us your “welcome, 2014!” event yet, firstname.lastname@example.org – thank you!
(Click any photo for a larger view)
If you didn’t get a chance to go look for orcas when we published word this morning that they were heading this way – here’s the next best thing. (Or maybe better – we went to look and missed them anyway!) West Seattleite Trileigh Tucker, our first tipster again today, got great photos, including breaches.
They are of course beautiful simply swimming by:
The ferry in the top photo is one of the bigger ones on the Seattle-Bainbridge run. This time of year, orca sightings here usually mean they’re chasing salmon runs to chow down on. For some orca facts and figures – go here. And thanks to everyone who shared sighting info this morning/afternoon, so that others had a chance to go look for them too!
10:30 PM: Mike Russell is also sharing photos – here’s a link to his Facebook gallery, for starters.
10:23 AM: Thanks to Trileigh Tucker for sending word that orcas are expected to be passing this way again – this time, northbound, reported off Maury Island less than an hour ago. Please share the news if you see them. Meantime, remember Trileigh’s awesome photo of orcas off a Fauntleroy-Vashon ferry last weekend? See the view of them FROM the ferry, via Melissa Burks‘ album on Facebook.
11:28 AM: Donna from The Whale Trail says they’re visible without binoculars from Me-Kwa-Mooks.
4:25 PM: Trileigh shared spectacular photos, and we have published them separately.
The Argosy Cruises Christmas Ship and its accompanying fleet emerged from Elliott Bay fog – with sea lions barking and foghorns sounding – to make its first-ever visit to Salty’s on Alki (WSB sponsor) this past hour. Pacific Sound Chorus was aboard for the holiday serenade, with audiences on the ships, on Salty’s decks, and on the shoreline nearby. While this was its last West Seattle stop this holiday season …
… it continues making the rounds elsewhere in the region through next Monday night (December 23rd); here’s the schedule.
From the water and from the beach, West Seattle environmental advocate “Diver Laura” James has continued to help document the mystery ailment that’s killing off so many sea stars (as updated here three weeks ago). Tonight, she’s been out diving east of Seacrest as part of a weekly check (added 1:53 am, here’s the new video):
Two weeks earlier, that same check yielded this video:
Before tonight’s dive, Laura sent this report on a shore investigation from Saturday night:
We got out last night with Professor Drew Harvell (from Cornell) to take a walk down at Seacrest. We walked from Cove 2 to Cove 1 on the lower low tide in the intertidal zone and counted sick and healthy sea stars. We counted about 170 stars (both the purple and orange ones) and saw a disease rate of around 50%. This is better than what we are seeing subtidal at the same sites, which is showing 90% + mortality, like at the pilings in the video.
The Professor was very excited because it showed a difference between intertidal and subtidal, and also that it is not hard for beach walkers/tidepool visitors to find the Sea Stars, but also reasonably easy to identify one that is ‘sick/dying’.
We are going to try to make the same walk a few more times during the next series of low tides and hopefully get another count and see how the numbers compare.
A regional map is in the works, as the sea-star deaths are being tracked – see it here. If you would like to help contribute, read on for Laura’s explanation of how you can do that:
Click to read the rest of Followup: Sea stars (starfish) still dying, still mysteriously…
Trileigh Tucker shares that image from Saturday’s orca sightings – click it for a larger view, in which you’ll see people crowding the outside deck to watch the orcas clearly in view right alongside the state ferry Issaquah on the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth run. No word of any local sightings so far today – any time you see one (or more), please let us know so we can help share the news.
4:15 PM: Received this photo from Barbara Bonner, taken from Lincoln Park on Saturday:
You can also click that photo for a larger view.
9:03 AM: Orcas are back in our waters again today – Claire reports a sighting from the Lincoln Park shoreline, with the whales heading south, as of about 15 minutes ago. (Please let us know if you spot them, even with a text (or voice call if you prefer) to 206-293-6302. Thanks! (P.S. Wildlife watcher/advocate Trileigh Tucker tells us she’s heard a report too.)
1:02 PM: Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail called a short time ago and said orcas are
southNORTHbound, likely visible soon from Alki Point area. She’ll be in the area with binoculars.
Thanks to Trileigh Tucker, wildlife-watcher/photographer extraordinaire, for a note about what apparently are two groups of orcas headed northbound past, and approaching, our shores – parallel with Southworth and with Seahurst. Please let us know if you see/have seen them!
In the midst of all the hectic holiday activities on Saturday – orcas swam by West Seattle shores. Thanks to Trileigh Tucker for sharing photos!
Trileigh watched the orcas from Lowman Beach.
The sun had just set when the Argosy Cruises Christmas Ship and its accompanying vessels arrived at Lowman Beach tonight, first of two stops on its first of two nights visiting West Seattle this season. Seattle Parks set up a hospitality tent as always, as well as a bonfire, while, from onboard, The Dickens Carolers spent about 20 minutes serenading hundreds lining the shore. After Lowman, the Christmas Ship sailed on to Alki. If you missed tonight’s stops, you have another chance on Monday, December 16th, when the Christmas Ship will bring the Pacific Sound Chorus to Elliott Bay just off the shores of Salty’s on Alki (WSB sponsor) and vicinity (Seacrest Park) 9:15-9:35 pm. Its full schedule of stops around Puget Sound, Lake Washington, and Lake Union is here.
Update: Victoria Clipper IV stolen; SWAT team arrests suspect, who claimed he wanted to get to West SeattleDecember 1, 2013 at 9:41 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 36 Comments
9:41 AM: If you have a view across Elliott Bay from West Seattle, you might have noticed emergency vessels around one of the Victoria Clipper boats – Carolyn Newman shared the photo, and we received a call from Louise in North Admiral. Seattle Police tweeted, “Report of a suspicious person aboard the otherwise unoccupied Victoria Clipper. Coast Guard has called in our Bomb Squad.” In addition to being unoccupied, the boat is also unmoored. It’s just off the downtown waterfront, but again, in case you noticed the activity from here, that’s what’s up.
10:26 AM: Update from SPD: “Officers are in contact with the man on the Victoria Clipper and are still working to resolve the situation.”
10:36 AM: Suspect in custody, SPD tweets:
Suspect in Elliott Bay incident taken into custody aboard the Victoria Clipper.
— Seattle Police Dept. (@SeattlePD) December 1, 2013
11:55 AM: According to the SPD Blotter account of the Clipper-commandeering incident, the suspect claims he wanted to take it to West Seattle!
…The boat was discovered 300 yards out from Pier 69 on the Seattle waterfront around 7 AM, and it first appeared the Clipper ship was adrift.
However, when a tugboat went to retrieve the boat, they discovered there was a man on board and contacted the Coast Guard and police. SPD’s SWAT, patrol and Arson Bomb Squad responded to Elliott Bay along with Port of Seattle police and US Coast Guard boat and helicopter teams.
Police negotiators contacted the man on the ship and, eventually, a tactical team boarded the vessel and arrested the suspect. The man told police he had planned to take the boat to West Seattle.
The suspect will be booked into the King County Jail for yet-to-be-determined charges (piracy or grand theft vessel) and the boat will be towed back to port.
Closest photos we’ve seen are from KIRO TV, which called in its chopper.
1:39 PM: The president of the Victoria Clipper’s parent company told the Victoria Times-Colonist he was in his waterfront office when he saw the boat take off, unscheduled. Read the interview here.
7:10 PM: The man arrested by police has a long record, according to what we’re finding; today is his 33rd birthday. He is a registered sex offender named Samuel McDonough, address listed as Pike/Broadway (Capitol Hill); his most recent sexually motivated crime, records show, involved indecent exposure outside a coffee stand in Issaquah last year. We’re still checking publicly available records to look for any West Seattle links. His page (with photo) on the sex-offender registry is here.
We feel fairly confident in saying that most West Seattleites are thankful for the beauty all around our peninsula. In honor of that, we’ve been saving this video shared with us earlier this week by Greg Daly, who explained, “I built a tricopter to get some cool ski footage … I’ve been practicing around West Seattle and the end result is pretty cool!” It is! See for yourself.
P.S. Greg in fact shared a skiing video here almost two years ago – Gatewood to Lowman!
You have probably heard of the die-off of sea stars – aka starfish – all along the West Coast, and in some East Coast spots too. Regional and national news organizations are paying attention – the Washington Post covered the die-off just this week. But nothing brings it home like seeing what “Diver Laura” James observed in West Seattle waters this weekend. She recorded video off Seacrest on Saturday and uploaded the clip (go here if you can’t see/play the embedded version above) early today, two weeks after she documented dead stars on the beach (as reported here). Discussing her video early today via e-mail, she told us, “I knew it was bad, but I hadn’t seen it in a couple weeks, and it was crushing to see bodies piled on top of bodies and the pilings bare.”
This epidemic is fast-growing; this KING 5 report from a month ago features Seattle Aquarium investigators saying only sunflower stars were affected, yet now it’s moved to other species, as Laura’s video shows so vividly. Researchers continue to say they haven’t figured it out, except for the fact that it’s happening in many places – we found this tracking map as well as media coverage including Sonoma County north of San Francisco, Half Moon Bay south of San Francisco, Southern California, and the earliest reports this fall, from British Columbia.
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