(Added 8:55 am: Photo by Carolyn Newman)
Lots of orca-watching going on this morning, from Beach Drive to Elliott Bay, where the newest reports are from – likely the same two transient male orcas who have been visiting the area for the past several days. Photos shared via Twitter:
— Jonathan Evans (@jhewiz) April 23, 2014
— Melinda Simon (@melindasimonsea) April 23, 2014
8:38 AM: Found out they started the day off West Seattle pretty early – James was watching them off Fauntleroy in the 6 am hour! Meantime, another photo tweeted from the Water Taxi vicinity (Seacrest Boathouse/Pier, 1660 Harbor SW, in case you are new in the area):
— KellyD (@kdbokay) April 23, 2014
— Russ Walker (@russ_walker) April 23, 2014
9:36 AM: Thanks again to everyone who has tweeted, e-mailed, texted/called (206-293-6302 any time), Facebooked – speaking of which, Melinda posted video of the orcas off Beach Drive; not embeddable, unfortunately, but here’s a direct link to see it on FB.
10:27 PM: Thanks to Kate Giannaros for sharing that photo of one of two orcas she reported seeing in Elliott Bay this afternoon. Lise also reported seeing one from the Water Taxi. Two transient male orcas have been seen around the area in recent days. P.S. See a whale? That’s breaking news – text or call our 24/7 hotline, 206-293-6302 – thank you!
ADDED 7:11 AM TUESDAY: Someone just did exactly that to report a sighting in The Arroyos this morning.
8:02 AM: Another text – northbound orcas by Alki Point.
8:57 AM: Guy and Kate (who shared the photo above) have both reported in recent minutes that the orcas are back in Elliott Bay! (And thanks to Carolyn Newman for the photo above this paragraph, also from the sighting yesterday.)
(Photo by Gary Jones, added 11:20 am)
9:34 AM: On Monday, we had a report of southbound orcas (and a photo too – thanks to the unidentified texter!); now, there’s word of orcas headed northbound along the east side of Vashon, which means they might soon be visible from here. Thanks to Alisa for letting us know about the report, which appeared on the Orca Network Facebook page.
9:46 AM UPDATE: Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail just called and reports “three to five” orcas in this group, approaching Lincoln Park.
11:20 AM UPDATE: Just back from a trip along Beach Drive and Alki – didn’t see the orcas ourselves, but Gary Jones saw them in the Alki Point vicinity and shared his first photo, above (thank you!).
(Thanks to the person who texted us this photo from the Bainbridge ferry this morning!)
Multiple reports this morning of orcas back in the area (thanks to Barb for the first report) – we’ve heard of southbound whales sighted near Bainbridge and Blake Islands. They’re reported to be closer to the west side of Puget Sound, so you’ll need binoculars. Please let us know if you spot them!
Beautiful day on the water – and the sights from West Seattle shores included the Blue Heron Canoe, photographed by Mark Wangerin from Jack Block Park. The canoe family is led by skipper Michael (didahalqid) Evans; we’ve covered their participation in local events including the dedication of the T-107 canoe launch during Duwamish Alive! three years ago (next one is a week away, by the way). Today’s paddle was one of the scheduled events listed on the Blue Heron Canoe’s website.
We’ve heard time and again that orca fans would like to hear about “possibilities,” not just sure-bet sightings, so: Alisa Lemire Brooks, posting on the Orca Network Facebook page, has been tracking a group for the past few hours, currently off Bainbridge and southbound until they stopped for a snack. Apparently it’s some of the transient orcas (the ones that eat other mammals, unlike the resident orcas, which eat fish) who’ve been visiting lately. They’re reported to be on the west side of the Sound, so not likely visible without binoculars. We’d love to hear from you if you see ‘em (text or call 206-293-6302) – thanks!
Thanks to Gary Jones for the photo: Seen from West Seattle, that’s the USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10) entering Elliott Bay this morning after completing its ice-breaking mission in Antarctica. According to its infopage (linked to its name in that last line), it’s “one of the largest ships in the US Coast Guard and one of the world’s most powerful non-nuclear ships.” Here’s the USCG news release detailing what the Polar Star and its 140-person crew have done during their 108-day deployment.
(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 – firstname.lastname@example.org – 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, email@example.com – 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.
All contents copyright 2014, A Drink of Water and a Story Interactive. Here's how to contact us.
Header image by Nick Adams. ABSOLUTELY NO WSB PHOTO REUSE WITHOUT SITE OWNERS' PERMISSION.
Entries and comments feeds. ^Top^