Bright as a star, named for an astronaut: What those bright lights across Puget Sound from West Seattle turned out to beJuly 28, 2014 at 3:47 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 5 Comments
(USNS John Glenn last night, WSB photo at twilight, from a distance)
For the past few weeks, people with west-facing views from West Seattle have been noticing a new and VERY bright light from the Manchester vicinity (map). The WSB Forums even had a thread going for a while, and that led to the theory that the lights were coming from, or related to, a certain ship that’s been at the Manchester Naval Fuel Depot about that long, and finally confirmed it last night by taking a ride on the Seattle-Bremerton state ferry. The ship is the USNS John Glenn, a mobile landing platform that was just dedicated a few months ago. Here’s a US Navy file photo:
We observed the lights on the port (left) side of its superstructure, rising. Today, a spokesperson for Manchester told WSB earlier today that lighting is required when fuel/fluid operations are under way at night. What we’re still trying to find out is – if this is even available as public information – how long the USNS John Glenn, which apparently does not yet have a homeport, will be there. But since we’re still getting inquiries about this, we didn’t want to wait any longer to share the answer of WHAT the lights are.
More Seafair air-and-sea details: Blue Angels in Seattle tomorrow, Parade of Ships (and aircraft) WednesdayJuly 27, 2014 at 7:44 pm | In Blue Angels, Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 9 Comments
Welcome to seattle #7! pic.twitter.com/Gt4m2vEeJD
— Seafair Festival (@SeafairFestival) July 28, 2014
Earlier today, we mentioned military aircraft sightings linked to Marine Week, which is part of Seafair this year. But the big show is yet to come – the return of the Blue Angels. Love them or hate them, you might want to know when they’re coming in, in addition to when they’re practicing and performing. So we’ve just confirmed that six Blue Angels arrive at Boeing Field tomorrow (Monday) by 1 pm. (One arrived unannounced today – see Twitter photo above.) A downtown flyby is expected around 12:30 pm. Wednesday, #7 goes up for demonstration flights with one “influencer” and one media person. Then Thursday (9:45-noon and 1:15-2:40 I-90 bridge closures) and Friday are practices, Saturday-Sunday are the official shows (12:15 pm-2:40 pm I-90 closures the latter 3 days). More as the week goes on. Also:
PARADE OF SHIPS/FLIGHT: We’ve already mentioned this feature returns this year too, and the ships will be visible from West Seattle shores on Wednesday afternoon – you might glimpse the aircraft from here too, though in the past we’ve noticed the flybys were closer to downtown. Here’s the list of participating vessels and aircraft expected along the downtown waterfront around 1:45 (so, obviously, passing West Seattle earlier):
Parade of Ships
Parade of Flight
Coast Guard Search & Rescue Demonstration – MH-54D
(US Navy photo: USS Constellation in Elliott Bay during Seafair, 1996)
Advance notice for everyone who is interested in what passes our shores: The decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Constellation is scheduled to be towed from Bremerton one week from today (Thursday, July 31st), which means you’ll be able to see it – at a distance – from Alki Point southward. Its eventual destination will be Brownsville, Texas, where it will be broken up. It’s been mothballed in Bremerton for almost a decade, after being decommissioned in 2003 and then towed here from San Diego, following 42 years in service. A time for its departure hasn’t been announced yet, but we’ll be watching in the days ahead.
SIDE NOTE: One day before the Constellation’s move, active Navy ships participating in the Seafair Fleet will be visible from even more of the West Seattle shore. Here’s our recent preview of the July 30th Parade of Ships.
Moored on this murky day at the Port of Seattle‘s Terminal 5 in West Seattle, the Westwood Olympia is the last ship scheduled for a T-5 call TFN. After 50 years as a cargo terminal, T-5 will be idle once this ship departs. We reported last month on the port’s plan to close T-5 while spending $5 million planning a modernization project, so that it can handle new mega-sized ships – but there’s no plan yet for where the port will get the up to one-quarter-billion dollars the project will cost. Port spokesperson Peter McGraw tells WSB that “during the multi-year design and permitting phase of Terminal 5 Modernization, we will be working to attract interim maritime uses to this industrial facility.” Meantime, while other shipping lines that used it are moving to other Seattle terminals, Westwood ships are going back to Tacoma after 31 years, with its first call there scheduled for one week from today.
ADDED FRIDAY: For the record, here’s a Port memo about some of the terms related to the T-5 shutdown, as Eagle Marine Service moves on to sublease space on Harbor Island.
(2011 US Navy photo of USS Essex)
The Blue Angels aren’t all that the U.S. Navy is sending back to Seafair this summer, after a year away because of federal budget travails. The Seafair Fleet Parade of Ships is back too – with the ships planning to sail past West Seattle shores on their way around Elliott Bay starting around 10 am July 30th. We just received the announcement of which ships will participate – the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), and guided-missile destroyer USS Howard (DDG 83). All three are homeported in San Diego; they’ll also be open for public tours July 31-August 3. The Parade of Ships will include U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian participation, too – more as it gets closer.
P.S. Last amphibious-assault ship to participate in the Seafair Parade of Ships was the USS Bonhomme Richard in 2011 – here’s our coverage from that year.
That photo shared by Lura last night showed the retrieval of a King County water-quality-monitoring buoy from its surprise spot on the Beach Drive shore, less than a year after it was put into place off Lincoln Park. Following up on what we reported Sunday, here’s what the county says today:
King County Environmental Laboratory employees are looking into how a water-quality- data-collection buoy came loose from its mooring before washing ashore along West Seattle on June 29.
The buoy and its host of environmental sensors had been in place off Point Williams since July 2013 and automatically transmitted a wealth of important data about environmental conditions. King County employees were notified early in the morning of June 29 that the buoy was ashore along the 5400 block of Beach Drive SW, south of Me-Kwa-Mooks Park.
Later that day, laboratory employees successfully refloated the buoy and towed it to the Elliott Bay Marina while arrangements are made to move it to the County’s environmental laboratory in Queen Anne for refitting.
While the buoy itself appears unscathed by its unexpected journey, a sensor that detects and transmits data on water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, specific conductivity and depth did not fare as well and was damaged.
Exactly how the buoy came loose from its mooring remains a mystery. The buoy was secured off Point Williams by nearly 1,200 pounds of weight, including two railroad wheels and a heavy gage steel chain that was attached to the buoy by a shackle mechanism.
Environmental laboratory workers will try to determine what part of the mooring set-up broke and how it can be repaired so that the buoy can be placed back at Point Williams.
From “Diver Laura” James, that’s the latest underwater look at the state of sea stars (aka “starfish”) at Cove 2 near Seacrest. Earlier this week, we featured video from a CCTV report on the sea-star dieoff, with Laura among the interviewees, in her role as a “citizen scientist.” The newest report was published last night on SeattleTimes.com (WSB partner), with a West Seattle focus, though our area is far from alone in experiencing the epidemic. Meantime, Laura summarizes what she observed in the video (from a dive on Thursday) as:
I’d gotten reports of baby stars showing up so figured it was time to go take a peek. It is really only one species that is showing what is hopefully signs of recovery (they still have to make it to ‘large’ size before it counts) the Evasterias or “mottled star”. Only a few pisaster (the purple ones) and zero pycnopodia (sunflower stars).
A reminder – if you spot sea stars on the beach or in the water, your observations can help too: sickstarfish.com.
Scientists still haven’t figured out what is causing the mass die-off of sea stars (aka “starfish,” though they’re not fish) in our waters and many other places along the Pacific Coast. The clip above, shared by West Seattle’s “Diver Laura” James, is the latest in-depth look at the crisis. Laura (and her dad!) are interviewed as part of the report, which was produced for China’s English-language network CCTV (you also can view it on the CCTV website here).
Meantime, as noted here earlier this month, your observations are important if you see starfish, living or dead – republishing what Laura told us during the recent low-low-low tides: “There’s a variety of ways to share the information – optimally through the surveys linked here. If people don’t have time to fill out a form if they could just use #sickstarfish [social-media hashtag] or manual entry on www.sickstarfish.com or even just e-mail me at email@example.com, it would be a massive help.” She is helping, as you’ll see in the CCTV story, as a “citizen scientist.”
The Port of Seattle‘s westernmost cargo terminal is one step closer to a possible quarter-billion-dollar modernization project. The first step toward upgrading half-century-old Terminal 5 in West Seattle was taken by the Port Commission at its meeting this afternoon – authorizing $4.7 million to be spent on planning, designing, reviewing, and almost everything short of building the project. As laid out in this slide deck prepared for the commission meeting (source of the image above), key elements of the proposal include:
• Crane Rails
• Fender System
• Structural Rehabilitation
• Power Supply
• Berth Deepening
Ships just keep getting bigger, the port points out, and most of its West Coast competitors (not to mention the East Coast) have upgrade projects under way to handle the changes. “If we don’t stay competitive, we go out of business,” observed commissioner John Creighton at today’s meeting. Though construction is not likely to start for two years, Terminal 5 will be closed starting this summer, with its cargo operations (via Eagle) moving east to Terminal 18, as reported by KING 5 last week and explained in a Port announcement. Another major point, included in this memo prepared for today’s meeting: The port has not figured out where the $180 million to $250 million for the full project would come from. But with today’s vote, design and planning begins.
P.S. We’ll be following up on a few side points of this – including what the almost-immediate closure of Terminal 5 means for local truck traffic.
On this holiday morning, take a peek beneath the surface of Puget Sound, just off West Seattle, in this video shared by “Diver Laura” James (thanks!). Unlike some underwater videos, this one identifies most of what/who you’ll see – unobtrusively; if you want to find out more about any individual creature, you then can look it up via a site like this.
P.S. Laura says they wouldn’t have been able to do this if the noctiluca bloom hadn’t begun to let up (that’s the orangish-red water that seems to show up every year – here’s the photo we published a week ago).
Thanks to Trina for the photo of the Annabelle, which she reported seeing near Salty’s on Alki (WSB sponsor). An info search reminds us that we’ve shown the Tacoma-based former Herron Island ferry here before, in 2010, at which time commenters surfaced lots of info about both its history and its rebirth as a floating home.
SIDE NOTE FOR SEA-WATCHERS: Checking the Coast Guard’s latest Local Notice for Mariners, looks like west-facing water watchers will see a yacht race one week from today – the annual Blake Island Race (see the course map on page 23, here) on May 31st.
(Added: Photo of Tokitae this evening, courtesy JayDee in Upper Alki)
We’ve received some questions about a ferry that seemed stalled in the water off Alki Point earlier this hour. No, it’s not in trouble. We checked via MarineTraffic.com; it’s the new Washington State Ferries vessel M/V Tokitae, built at Vigor on Harbor Island and scheduled to go into service next month.
Thanks to Guy Smith on Alki Point for sharing the photo of the 175-foot buoy tender USCGC Henry Blake, seen between our peninsula and Bainbridge Island today. We noticed it while out for a midday walk on Duwamish Head, but didn’t have binoculars or zoom lens or even MarineTraffic.com handy at the time; Guy’s e-mail tonight with the photo enabled us to identify it via its number, WLM-563. It’s based in Everett and was commissioned there in 2000, according to the Henry Blake’s official USCG fact sheet, which notes, “Henry Blake’s primary mission is servicing navigational aids, but it also provides marine environmental protection and search and rescue.” Closer view:
P.S. Bonus info – here’s a closer look at the Coast Guard’s “black-hulled fleet,” including this ship, and how the USCG’s ships are color-coded.
Thanks to Leslie and Paul (whose photo is above) for word that the non-toxic microorganisms known as noctiluca have returned to West Seattle waters. When the weather and water warm up, this type of bloom tends to show up, rendering the water an alarming orange-ish-red, but authorities assure us it’s not toxic to humans or animals. It’s been almost exactly a year since the first reports of noctiluca in spring/summer 2013; it also showed up in June. This state webpage has more information as well as an e-mail address for a researcher who would like to hear about it when you see it.
More scenes from the start of boating season: Carolyn Newman spotted the West Seattle Water Taxi navigating between shrimp boats – today is the first of two 7 am-3 pm days during which the state is allowing shrimp-catching in Elliott Bay (the second day will be next Wednesday, May 7th).
Earlier in the morning, Roger Hayes photographed a rainbow from Alki, which he considered to be an auspicious start to Opening Day:
This also is the start of cruise-ship season, as reported here earlier. And now for some history:
THE STORY OF THE SANS SOUCI II: Also to commemorate the start of boating season, Beach Drive Blog tells the tale of the yacht Sans Souci II, owned by the pioneering Schmitz family, briefly drafted into military service – read about it (and see it!) by going here.
Thanks to Lynn for the early-morning view of the Golden Princess, one of the two ships in Seattle today as this year’s cruise season begins. The Princess Cruises ship is berthed at Pier 91 in Magnolia along with Holland-America Line’s Westerdam; as the season ramps up in the weeks ahead, you’ll see other ships using Pier 66 downtown, too. Here’s the full schedule for this year’s season, which runs five months, with the last scheduled stop on September 30th.
(Thanks to Shannon for sharing this photo via the WSB Facebook page)
2:54 PM: If you missed seeing them earlier this week – those two orcas are back in the area again, just passing Alki Point moments ago and headed south. Thanks to the tipster who sent word of this; the Orca Network Facebook page also has sightings reports, and mentions that NOAA has been tracking them, so you might be able to spot them by looking for a research boat. Please let us know if/where/when you see them!
ADDED 10:21 PM: Thanks to Trileigh Tucker for two more orca photos – above and below this line.
(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.
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