(Photo by Valerie Costa)
According to MarineTraffic.com tracking and photos tweeted by drilling opponents, the leased-by-Shell drillship Noble Discoverer is starting its journey to the Arctic. Its departure from Everett comes two weeks and one day after Shell’s other rig, Polar Pioneer, left Terminal 5 in West Seattle. At one point, it was expected that Noble Discoverer also would come to T-5 as part of Foss’s interim lease, but instead it’s been in Everett since its Puget Sound arrival. Polar Pioneer arrived in the Aleutian Islands last weekend as a stop along the way to the Chukchi Sea; several other Shell vessels that have spent time at T-5 in recent weeks are there already – including Aiviq and Harvey Explorer – or en route, including Harvey Champion, now in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. When they’ll return depends on what happens or doesn’t happen in the Arctic between now and September.
Just got a text that up to six transient killer whales are visible from Alki right now, and heading “north into Elliott Bay.” (Transients are the non-resident orcas whose prey includes other marine mammals; residents are the members of the three Puget Sound-based J, K, and L pods, who eat fish.) Please let us know if you see them – we’ll be looking too, but don’t always have the best of luck!
6:27 AM: Picking up from our all-night coverage – right now, Foss tugs are pulling the Polar Pioneer out of the west mouth of the Duwamish River, a month after its arrival, and a kayak blockade is trying to stop it.
Heavy police and Coast Guard presence in the area, on sea and in the air, plus we’ve seen police bicycle officers at Terminal 5 in the wake of the rig’s pullout.
6:32 AM: The rig and tugs are fully out in the bay now and the blockade appears to be moving along with them.
6:35 AM: The tugs and rig briefly stopped but are now moving, very slowly, again. Commenters in our earlier coverage asked why protesters are trying to stop it from leaving, since they didn’t want it here in the first place.
They have said that the point is to try to keep it from getting to the Arctic in its relatively short summer window, to stop it from drilling.
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) June 15, 2015
6:47 AM: The group continues to advance toward Duwamish Head, tugs, Polar Pioneer, kayakers and all. The Lindsey Foss and Garth Foss are pulling the Polar Pioneer while the Andrew Foss and Henry Foss are behind. The first three also were among the tugs that brought it into Seattle from Port Angeles on May 14th.
Someone asked if the Water Taxi was affected. No. pic.twitter.com/PdjysE6NfY
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) June 15, 2015
7:10 AM: We’ve moved over to Don Armeni, which has been protest HQ for some days now. Red flags are set up on the shore.
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) June 15, 2015
7:19 AM: The protest group says there have been “several arrests.” No further details or confirmation so far.
7:47 AM: We’re still at Don Armeni, but about to move on; the rig is out of sight, and some kayakers continue returning to the ramp here. Most of the citywide media has left. We asked if anyone knows how long the Solar Pioneer barge will stay; no info on that yet. (As we reported last night, a cleanup is scheduled today at the spot near Seacrest where its cables and blocks did damage before it moved west.)
From Duwamish Head. Way in the distance now. pic.twitter.com/iGVWY18eYD
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) June 15, 2015
8:28 AM: We’re back at HQ and will be adding/replacing some photos. If any new information emerges later, regarding arrests or anything else related to today’s departure, we’ll update this story. A couple points in the meantime:
*Foss has a 2-year lease with the Port of Seattle for part of Terminal 5, and the plan has been for Shell to return here after Arctic-drilling season. In the meantime, though, the permit fight will play out, with a city hearing set for July 23rd. As we first reported over the weekend, maritime companies are seeking to join that fight, in a group calling itself the “T-5 Intervenors.”
10:10 AM: No arrests confirmed but the Coast Guard has tweeted that 24 people were detained:
— USCGPacificNorthwest (@USCGPacificNW) June 15, 2015
City Councilmember Mike O’Brien is reported to have been among the detainees.
11:48 AM: What the protesters couldn’t do, the tide apparently did – the Shell No group texted about an hour ago – right around the lowest tide of the day, almost the lowest of the month – that Polar Pioneer was “beached” off Bainbridge Island. We were away from HQ but tweeted it and then noted that it was indeed still visible in the distance from Alki. As of right now, MarineTraffic.com still shows it and its accompanying vessels – plus Coast Guard and police – in the same spot off north Bainbridge Island.
11:54 AM: Foss spokesperson Paul Queary says it’s not stuck – it’s a planned change of tugs.
4:45 PM: The Polar Pioneer is currently passing between North Kitsap and South Whidbey. West Seattle pilot/photographer Cuyler Binion shared this aerial view from earlier:
(Added: Photo by Gary Jones)
1:48 PM: From the “in case you wondered, too” files: Thanks to the tipster who texted (206-293-6302 any time) that the 420-foot US Coast Guard Cutter Healy is off Alki Point right now. Our tipster also points out that the Seattle-based Healy has a big mission ahead in late summer, headed for the North Pole to study the chemistry of Arctic waters. (P.S. Thanks in advance if you have a photo to share – we can’t get down to the water right now!)
2:20 PM: Thanks to Gary Jones for the photo we’ve added atop this story – which, as you’ll see, includes other vessels in what he says appears to be a ceremony. We’re checking! (USCGC Healy did have a change of command earlier this month, for starters …)
4:20 PM: Might be related. Eve says she inquired at the lighthouse after noticing party preparations there and was told it was for a retiring captain.
FRIDAY MORNING: Thanks to Janna for the photo and news of the sighting – what she described as the “little ferry” seen off West Seattle this morning is the Pierce County ferry Steilacoom II. Looks like it’s headed to Vigor for maintenance in drydock.
ADDED SUNDAY NIGHT: We happened to catch this photo while visiting Jack Block Park; adding it for posterity:
(Added 10:26 am: Thanks to Cindi for the photo!)
Thanks to Joseph for the tip that an aircraft carrier is visible off West Seattle right now, heading out of Rich Passage. According to the Kitsap Sun (via Twitter), it’s the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), though they apparently (unlike most departures) did not have advance word. It’s been back in Bremerton less than a month, following six weeks of training at sea.
One last set of scenes from Friday night before we move on to Saturday – lanterns and lights in a variety of forms, on the shore and the bay.
This was from the “illuminated flotilla” procession marking World Environment Day, following a concert presented by the Vashon-based Backbone Campaign on the protest barge “Solar Pioneer” off Don Armeni. We counted about 30 kayaks as well as the sailboat above.
Seattle Police Harbor Patrol was in evidence throughout (and we saw the Coast Guard’s smaller vessels in the early going)
On shore, lights included giant tulips as well as these salmon:
The kayaks eventually paddled past Seacrest, toward Jack Block, then turned around.
For those who’ve been asking about the concerts and events on the barge, which apparently have been audible all the way up the hill into Admiral, the ShellNo website lists a “jazz band” for tonight, no further details.
You’ve probably seen him in the water off Alki – and this Saturday, you’ll see Andrew Malinak off Lincoln Park (and points south) if he’s successful in the swim he’s just announced:
On Saturday, 6 June 2015, Seattle resident Andrew Malinak will attempt to swim from Tacoma to West Seattle. This swim, between Old Town Dock and Lincoln Park, covers over 18.8 miles and will follow Marathon Swimming Federation rules for unassisted swims (no wetsuit or outside assistance). The swim is expected to take between seven and nine hours with water temperatures between 52F and 55F.
Tacoma native Bert Thomas swam from West Seattle to Tacoma in 1956, and remains the only person to have ever done so. A year prior, Thomas was the first person to successfully swim the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a swim Malinak attempted in 2013 and will attempt again later this year. The reverse of Thomas’s original route has not been attempted before.
To prepare for the cold water and long distance, Malinak has been training at Alki Beach, West Seattle throughout the winter and spring. He has previously completed a circumnavigation of Manhattan (2012, 28.5 miles), a crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar (2010, 10 miles), and most recently 8 Bridges, a seven-stage swim down the Hudson River in New York (2014, 120 miles). He will be supported on this swim by Peter Ray, local swimmers Wendy Van De Sompele, Melissa Nordquist, Dan Robinson, and Erika Norris, Boston marathon swimmer Elaine Howley, and Citizens for a Healthy Bay of Tacoma.
If all goes according to plan, Malinak expects to arrive at Lincoln Park around 4:30; Twitter updates are planned at twitter.com/andrewswims.
(Photo courtesy Andrew Malinak)
(May 2015 photo of ‘Solar Pioneer,’ with Polar Pioneer in background, by David Hutchinson)
While Shell’s Arctic-offshore-drilling vessels might be leaving as soon as June 10th, opponents have announced another round of protest events in West Seattle. According to an online schedule (found earlier on this webpage, but it’s timing out as we write this), they’re including two “welcoming” events today and Thursday at the park adjacent to Delridge Community Center and a gathering tomorrow night across the street at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, as well as “land blockades” as soon as Friday and a Friday night flotilla near the People’s Platform/Solar Pioneer barge off Don Armeni Boat Ramp.
ADDED 6:25 PM: We went over to the Delridge CC park to check on the “welcoming” event and found two people under a canopy along with this sign near the corner of Delridge and Genesee:
They told us someone had already sent police over to check on them; the officers stopped by, and left.
(back to original report) Meantime, the state Department of Natural Resources confirmed to WSB that Shell has responded to its questions about whether the drilling platform is too big for T-5, but hasn’t made the response public yet, saying DNR staffers are “reviewing” it.
From the “what’s that vessel?” file: Thanks to Lynn Hall and Don Brubeck for sending photos of this icebreaker/tug seen off West Seattle this morning – that’s Lynn’s photo above. Online information indicates that the Norway-built Tor Viking II is associated with the Royal Dutch Shell offshore-Arctic-drilling fleet; while most of the information involves its tasks from Shell’s 2012 Arctic efforts, this is one of the more than two dozen vessels listed in the U.S. Coast Guard “rule” for Puget Sound “temporary safety zones” related to Shell’s fleet.
Thanks to Tamsen for the photo from Lincoln Park, and also to Linda for a sighting report from the nearby Lowman Beach area: As has been happening every year for a while, warm weather and long days are bringing reddish water to the West Seattle shores, and today marks the first report we’ve received this year. It’s almost always a NONTOXIC bloom called noctiluca – you can see earlier photos in our first report from last year and from 2013 (both of those were in May, too). Here’s a state webpage with more information, plus a way to report sightings, which they’re interested in studying.
From around the Web tonight: Updates on the drilling platform Polar Pioneer and the protest barge Solar Pioneer, both still in West Seattle waters. We’d photographed the latter tonight from Don Armeni Boat Ramp after noticing it had moved, which was expected after it ran afoul of the Coast Guard, among others, as Sydney Brownstone of The Stranger has been chronicling. Tonight our partners at The Seattle Times had an update too; here’s their backstory about the barge. It’s now anchored out of the prime dive zone.
Meantime, Brownstone reports tonight that the state Department of Natural Resources is concerned Polar Pioneer might be taking up too much space in the West Waterway adjacent to T-5. So it’s asking Shell some questions, with a June 1st deadline for answers. That’s three days before the deadline for Shell, T-5 interim lease-holder Foss Maritime, and the Port of Seattle to respond to the city’s Notice of Violation, as reported here last Tuesday.
SIDE NOTE: No new protest plans reported here. But in Bellingham tonight, an activist is reported to have fastened herself to the anchor chain of a Shell barge, the Arctic Challenger.
(Photo courtesy Vigor Industrial)
From the what-you’ll-see-at-sea department – this just in from Vigor Industrial: A big floating drydock is due in over the weekend at its Harbor Island location, coming up from Portland.
No photo yet (we’re looking for one), but here’s the announcement via a Vigor spokesperson:
Click to read the rest of Big weekend on the water: 528-foot floating drydock due at Vigor…
A little murky for whale-watching today but Bob Bollen happened to catch these two passing Alki Point, northbound, this morning, and shared the photo. No word of any in this area currently but the Orca Network FB page mentions current sightings off Whidbey Island.
UPDATE: State ferry M/V Tacoma towed back to dock; replaced by boat from Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth runMay 8, 2015 at 4:47 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 3 Comments
4:47 PM: M/V Tacoma, which serves the Seattle-Bainbridge state-ferry run, has just broken down, and is under tow right now. Thanks to the reader who tipped us via text; we often get questions about ferries that look to be in trouble off West Seattle shores, so we’re mentioning this pre-emptively. Thanks to @sudsymaggie for the photo:
— SudsyMaggie (@SudsyMaggie) May 8, 2015
Tacoma is the ferry that was out of service for eight months after a breakdown last July.
4:55 PM: Tacoma has been towed to Colman Dock. “This will cancel the 4:40pm and 6:20pm sailing from Seattle and the 5:30pm and 7:10pm sailing from Bainbridge Island,” says WSF.
7:04 PM: Tacoma remains out of service and for now, the Issaquah has been moved from Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth, which subsequently is down to two boats. But thanks again to tipster Maggie, we know that State Sen. Sharon Nelson (who represents this area and lives on Maury Island) has been told that if Tacoma’s troubles persist, Evergreen State will be brought in to be a lower-capacity third vessel on F-V-S.
Three things West Seattle water-watchers might want to know about in the next two days:
TERMINAL 5: The car carrier Ryujin, which the Port of Seattle expected at Terminal 5 earlier this week, wound up stopping at Port Angeles for a while, and port spokesperson Peter McGraw says it’s now due in Seattle tonight:
We are now expecting the Ryujin to arrive at T-5 at 10:00 PM on Friday May 1st,
offloading to begin at 8:00 AM on Saturday May 2nd, leaving at 5:00 PM that day.
Speaking of Port Angeles, if you’re awaiting the big oil rig Polar Pioneer‘s arrival at T-5, it hasn’t left PA yet (the Chamber of Commerce’s webcam is still pointed at it).
SPOT SHRIMP SEASON: Last year, we didn’t know about this in advance, and were surprised to see Don Armeni packed with trailers, and the bay full of boats. This year, we’ve been watching for it, and we can tell you that tomorrow is the first day in which spot-shrimp fishing is allowed in this area, so you are likely to see a TON of traffic from the boat ramp and offshore. 7 am-3 pm Saturday (and then again on May 13th)
CRUISE SHIP SEASON: First one is Holland America Line’s Westerdam, and the port says it’s scheduled to enter the bay around 6:30 tomorrow morning. It’ll be docking at the Magnolia/Smith Cove terminal, leaving around 4 pm. This year’s cruise-ship schedule is here.
10:05 PM: Thanks to the texter who asked about a stopped ferry off Alki. According to a tweet from the Bainbridge Island Fire Department, there was a report of a possible person overboard from the Bainbridge-bound M/V Puyallup. We note via MarineTraffic.com that Seattle fireboat Leschi is in the area too, and the Bremerton ferry M/V Kaleetan is stopped. The BIFD said the U.S. Coast Guard also would be responding.
10:11 PM UPDATE: Washington State Ferries has now acknowledged the “search and rescue operation” via its “bulletins” page.
10:29 PM UPDATE: Per BIFD, the Coast Guard is sending a helicopter to help.
10:42 PM UPDATE: Our partners at The Seattle Times quote the USCG as saying this started when a life ring with a strobe light was spotted in the water, and that a head count was being done aboard M/V Puyallup to try to determine if anyone is missing. It’s now headed back to Colman Dock.
11:31 PM UPDATE: The Coast Guard has tweeted that it’s still searching. Puyallup remains docked in Seattle, while Kaleetan headed back to Bremerton. (Added: Three minutes after this update, Puyallup left for Bainbridge.)
At left in that image from a few minutes ago is the heavy-lift ship Blue Marlin, anchored in Port Angeles, notably no longer carrying the eventually-West-Seattle-bound drill rig Polar Pioneer, which it carried across the Pacific for Shell. Nine days after arriving in PA, the two were separated early this morning. We had been watching the slow-going operation for hours via a Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce webcam – here’s the view from just before dusk Saturday:
(We requested and were granted the PA Chamber’s permission to publish those images.) Right now, the drilling platform is no longer in view, as it is being towed to a closer-in Port Angeles anchorage, according to the Peninsula Daily News, which reports it will undergo about a week more of work, before it’s to be towed to Seattle. Also in Port Angeles is the first Shell vessel that had arrived at T-5, the icecutter Aiviq, which has been in PA since Friday and is currently shown on MarineTraffic.com as one of several vessels surrounding the Polar Pioneer as it moves through the PA’s harbor (others include at least four tugs owned by Foss, which will host the PP as part of its T-5 lease).
Shell’s second T-5-bound drill vessel, the Noble Discoverer, is still crossing the Pacific – it spent some time off Honolulu last Thursday, according to its track on MarineTraffic.com. Shell told the PDN that the drillship – which was last here in 2012 – will be proceeding directly to Seattle rather than stopping in PA as did the Polar Pioneer.
Right in time for Earth Day week, you have the chance to enjoy a film festival celebrating the beauty of our world’s waterways and the joy of exploring them. Mountain To Sound Outfitters is hosting a tour stop of the Reel Paddling Film Festival, 7 pm Friday (April 24th). The screening venue is just steps from M2SO’s shop in The Triangle, at Pershing Hall (inside the West Seattle Veterans’ Center/American Legion Post 160 building at 37th/Alaska). We just checked with M2SO proprietor Greg Whittaker and he says tickets are still available – buy online or at the door.
Headed home? Enjoy the sunshine – forecast suggests it might not be back tomorrow. Above, a paraglider was in flight again this afternoon over the West Seattle shore – we caught him headed southbound over Emma Schmitz Overlook/Me-Kwa-Mooks. Don’t know if it’s the same one we featured two months ago. Below, the newest state ferry Samish is still out on sea trials; we spotted it this morning from Charlestown Hill:
The Samish is the second of three 144-car ferries being built at Vigor on Harbor Island and is expected to start service in June in the San Juan Islands – but if you see a ferry off West Seattle making unusual moves between now and then, it’s probably this one.
ORIGINAL REPORT, 4:39 PM: Thanks to Don Brubeck for these photos showing some of what was up and who was out along West Seattle shores this afternoon.
P.S. At least one more sunny day is in store, according to the forecast – and if you have the chance to be out at the beach in the early afternoon, it’s the lowest tide of the month, -1.7 feet at 12:47 pm on Monday.
ADDED 5:13 PM: Speaking of low tide – an incident at Alki today is a reminder for boaters:
Mark just shared that video of a small boat getting some help to get un-stuck during this morning’s low tide.
Thanks to Lindsay for sharing the video – without much notice, two killer whales headed south along Vashon Island shores earlier today, around 1 pm. She says the sighting was a surprise, while she was giving a tour of the area to two friends visiting from Colorado. Also, a texter told us of a sighting near Brown’s Point in Tacoma, so if you’re by the water, keep watch – they’ll have to come back this way sooner or later.
Thanks to Nicole for the photo – this caught some eyes on the water off West Seattle’s western shores early this evening. Reminds us of the photo shoot last month involving a boat built for the Tunisian Navy. But according to our friends at Beach Drive Blog, who had a front-row seat this time, the helicopter clearly had a camera mount and the name on the yacht began with Endurance. BDB wondered if it might be one of these yachts. (Maybe the E720?)
FOLLOWUP: First vessel to arrive as part of Shell’s Arctic fleet, Aiviq, now docked at Terminal 5; Polar Pioneer/Blue Marlin approaching Strait of Juan de FucaApril 16, 2015 at 11:21 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 29 Comments
11:21 AM: Thanks to David Hutchinson for the photo, and to others for the tips: The first vessel in Shell‘s Arctic-drilling/support fleet has arrived in Seattle, and has docked at Terminal 5 (per MarineTraffic.com). It’s the Aiviq, mentioned here just last night in connection with the U.S. Coast Guard’s announcement of “safety zones” around the vessels expected here as part of Foss’s T-5 lease. The Aiviq is a three-year-old icebreaker that was among the Shell-related vessels that spent time here in 2012 before the company’s most-recent Arctic drilling attempts.
ADDED 11:52 AM: And for the first time in the weeks we’ve been watching for it, the Blue Marlin, carrying the drilling platform Polar Pioneer, is in MarineTraffic.com range, approaching the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca off the northwesternmost tip of Washington state, on schedule with its announced arrival in Port Angeles by tomorrow.
10:46 AM: According to a text tipster and the Orca Network Facebook page, you just might see orcas between Fauntleroy and Vashon right now – heading slowly southbound, according to observers, but at some point they might turn around, so this is your official heads-up that they’re in the area. Please comment if you see them! (And we ALWAYS appreciate texted tips about so many things – 206-293-6302, any time of the day/night.)
12:24 PM: We didn’t have any luck right around 11 from the Brace Point area – but two commenters have been watching more recently – thanks for the updates!
ADDED 7:44 AM: Some video from Wednesday, posted to YouTube and credited to Alisa Lemire Brooks/Orca Network, identifying these orcas as transients, not residents.
Congratulations to frequent WSB contributor “Diver Laura” James and her colleagues on that 2014 KCTS report about the sea-star die-off – they’ve been nominated for the Pacific Northwest Emmy Awards. That’s one of two nominations for Laura – her underwater photography of the sea-star situation also is part of another Emmy-nominated KCTS report, “Is Alaska Safe for Starfish?” Last year, she won one for another public-TV project, about sea otters and climate change. The full list of this year’s regional Emmy Award nominations is here; the winners will be announced in June.
The Port of Seattle says you will see a container ship at closed-since-last-summer Terminal 5 in West Seattle starting tonight. But it has nothing to do with the Foss lease/Shell/etc. According to an FYI note we received from spokesperson Peter McGraw: “The Hanjin Copenhagen will be at T-5 starting this evening for the next few days to address a Coast Guard requirement before leaving port.” According to MarineTraffic.com, the ship is crossing the bay right now, so should be docking at T-5 soon.
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