Back in April, West Seattleite Wayne Kinslow celebrated his 1,000th consecutive day of salt-water swimming, all but three off Alki. After 200 more days, he’s taking a break, starting today:
Thanks to Southwest Seattle Historical Society executive director Clay Eals for sharing his video from Wayne’s final day of the streak on Friday – he’s documented Wayne’s achievements on the SWSHS website (after all, it’s now part of West Seattle history!).
(Added: Photo by Trileigh Tucker, taken from Lowman Beach)
2:13 PM: An update from this morning’s report of southbound orcas … a fairly sizable group is now heading northbound and has drawn a crowd off Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook on Beach Drive. Unless they change direction again, you should be able to watch them along the Beach Drive shoreline for a while. Visible without binoculars – look for the blows and the small research boat!
2:24 PM: They’re heading north fairly quickly, and now out of Emma Schmitz range, so if you’re still heading out, try Constellation Park south of Alki Point. What we’ve been watching is a group of eight or so traveling very close together.
2:36 PM: We’ve had to head back inland but a texter says they’re now visible from Weather Watch Park (Beach Drive & Carroll).
9 AM: As mentioned in our traffic/transit roundup – since the report was from a ferry – orcas are back in the area this morning. Just after 8 am, commenting on one of our stories from last week, Michele reported, “A big pod of killer whales just showed off for the passengers on the 7:50 ferry to Southworth! Huge pod going south!” She didn’t report which side of Vashon they were passing – which would make a difference for visibility from here – but Orca Network regulars say it’s the east side, so they might still be visible from south West Seattle, and of course they’ll have to head back this way eventually. Updates appreciated if you see them! (You can also text our 24/7 hotline, 206-293-6302.) *Just as we were publishing this, we also heard from Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail, who reports researcher Mark Sears confirmed they’re southbound off north Vashon.*
1:30 PM: Per commenters and text, they’re now passing Fauntleroy, northbound.
2 PM: We and quite a few others are along Emma Schmitz, hoping to see them soon. One request, if you’re in a car and happen to see this … please don’t idle.
2:13 PM: Saw them! They are off Emma Schmitz, midchannel. Look for the blows, and the small research boat. Visible WITHOUT binoculars! We’ve opened a new story here.
9:13 AM: Missed your chance to go look for orcas during their recent weekday visits? Maybe today is your day. Jeff Hogan from Killer Whale Tales just texted to share a report of orcas seen in the Vashon ferry lanes. No initial word of their direction. Take your binoculars; most of the time they’re closer to the Vashon side than the West Seattle side. More when we hear it.
10:15 AM: No further reports – and the murky weather is a complication – but if they’re in the general area, they might switch directions, so you never know where/when they will turn up. Please comment if you see them – thank you.
Via Twitter, Vanessa reports the orcas are back again today. She’s seeing them southbound off Beach Drive, just south of Constellation Park. That’s the third time this week!
(Photo added: Northbound orcas, photographed from Alki Point by Guy Smith)
ORIGINAL REPORT, 8:16 AM: Two whale-watching notes: First, multiple reports this morning of orcas back in the area – seen off Beach Drive, and from the Vashon Island ferry run, headed southbound.
8:47 AM UPDATE: Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail just called – now the orcas are headed NORTH from the ferry lane – watch from Emma Schmitz Viewpoint soon.
9:06 AM: Jeff Hogan from Killer Whale Tales texted with news they’re off Lincoln Park right now.
9:46 AM: Via Twitter, MetPatrick reports they’re now off Constellation Park (Beach Drive, south of Alki Point).
1:27 PM: Adding two more photos, from Vicky Piston on Alki:
In comments, Donna from TWT says they disappeared from view here about two hours ago. But this is the season – keep watch and let us know (206-293-6302, text or voice, any time) if and when you see them!
(back to original report) Second, humpbacks have been in the area a while, and West Seattleite Dennis Hinton shares the photo of a sighting off the south end of Blake Island on Wednesday:
He says he was fishing off Southworth in the morning when he thought he saw a humpback – then the captain confirmed the ID as seen from a ferry headed back this way in the afternoon.
NOT SURE WHAT KIND OF WHALE YOU SAW? Check the species-ID info on The Whale Trail‘s website.
(Added 2:36 pm, photos by Gary Jones @ Alki Point)
ORIGINAL REPORT, 10:05 AM: Once again this morning, heads-up that orcas might be passing our shores soon. They didn’t make it this far south on Monday but they apparently did some traveling overnight, because Orca Network commenters (thanks again to Trileigh for the tip) are seeing them off Burien’s Three Tree Point – northbound this time – as of just before 10 am.
10:57 AM: Per Jen‘s comment, and also what we’re seeing from Orca Network commenters, they’re still headed northbound along Vashon; Jen notes that they are closer to the Vashon side, so if you’re looking from here, you’ll most likely need binoculars.
NOON: They are visible off north Vashon! We are now with Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail at Constellation Park.
12:30 PM: One group is past north Blake Island now; another one is off north Vashon. Still visible with binoculars. Donna says they’ve been confirmed as Southern Resident Killer Whales (the ones seen in the area earlier in the year were “transients” – one big difference is that SRKWs eat salmon, transients also eat marine mammals).
12:48 PM: We’ve left Constellation Park but Donna just called to say researcher Mark Sears, who is out with the whales, reports that one group is “headed right for Alki.”
11:36 AM: Thanks to Trileigh for the tip: Whale watchers commenting on the Orca Network Facebook page have been tracking whales heading in this general direction all morning, southbound, including sightings from Golden Gardens (Ballard) within the past hour. So this is your early alert. Please let us know if and when you see any from West Seattle – texting 206-293-6302 is the best way to reach us immediately – so we can update. Thanks!
2:55 PM: Haven’t heard of any sightings here, and it seems they might not have made it this far south before heading back north, according to the ON FB thread.
Thanks to Gary Jones for sharing his photo from Alki Point. The newest notable sighting at sea off West Seattle is NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown (R-104), the federal agency’s largest ship at 274 feet. It’s docked on the Duwamish River tonight, as shown on MarineTraffic.com; the latest fleet report from NOAA says the ship arrived from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, after studying “bioeffects of the Chukchi Sea,” described further:
Assess habitat conditions that influence biodiversity and distribution of benthic infaunal communities, contaminants, and chemical body burdens of resident organisms as measures of environmental health in the bays and lagoons in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in the vicinity of proposed oil transport pipelines. Baseline data will be essential for monitoring pollution control effectiveness and National Resource Damage Assessment activities in the event of a spill.
The Chukchi Sea is where Shell had drilled before announcing earlier this fall that it would end its Arctic Ocean exploration TFN. The Ronald H. Brown is homeported in Charleston, South Carolina; no word how long it’ll be here.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amanda R. Gray)
With U.S. Navy facilities relatively close by, submarine sightings happen here now and then. Robert reported this one on Wednesday – and later shared the link through which we obtained the photo and the backstory: After 32 years and a half-million miles of service, the fast-attack submarine USS Albuquerque (SSN 706) passed by on its way to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton to “commence its inactivation process,” says the Navy. Its last voyage followed an inactivation ceremony in San Diego a week earlier; the nuclear-powered submarine’s inactivation also drew a tribute in its namesake city. The process of “inactivating” a nuclear submarine is explained by the Kitsap Sun, which says this one joins about a dozen others awaiting dismantling, at a cost of at least $25 million each.
10:08 PM: We’ve had a few questions about what appears to be a search off Alki Point. The US Coast Guard has tweeted that there’s a search for someone in the water in Rich Passage, off south Bainbridge. (added) According to a USCG news release (read it here in full), a 54-year-old Bainbridge Island man is missing after his 15-foot fishing boat turned up empty and adrift more than three hours ago. He apparently had launched from the Port Orchard Marina.
9:46 AM TUESDAY: The search was reported to still be under way as of early this morning.
10:16 PM TUESDAY: As noted in comments, the USCG says it searched far and wide but finally had to suspend the search at 1:43 pm today.
Great news! New calf in J pod! We were out on an encounter today and documented a new calf, designated J53. The calf was seen traveling with J17. This is the third calf born in J pod this year. We will be following up this post with more information in the next few days. 👏👏👏 #srkw #orca #killerwhale #newbaby #congratulations #jpod #savethewhales #wildlife #centerforwhaleresearch
Just last Wednesday, it was announced that the federal drone survey of Puget Sound’s Southern Resident Killer Whales suggested more orca babies were on the way. And tonight, the Center for Whale Research shared news of one! This is the sixth orca calf reported in the three resident pods – J, K, and L – in less than a year, dating back to last December. As you can see in the Instagram post embedded above, they’re promising more info soon.
5:44 PM: Thanks for the texts. The state ferry M/V Puyallup has been involved in what Washington State Ferries describes as a “search/rescue” situation off Alki Point. The U.S. Coast Guard says someone might have gone overboard and it’s helping search. The Puyallup’s one of the biggest ferries in the system and serves the Seattle-Bainbridge run.
6:05 PM: The Puyallup is continuing to sail slowly off Alki, changing directions periodically – it’s currently heading westward again, according to VesselWatch. Our crew sees the USCG helicopter circling, too.
6:31 PM: The Puyallup finally went on to Bainbridge Island. One person on board tweets that what/who they were looking for might just have been “a seal.”
10:10 PM: The USCG says the search was officially suspended before 8 pm after Puyallup’s captain confirmed no one was missing.
More orca babies on the way? NOAA says drone survey of Southern Resident Killer Whales brings ‘hope for the population’October 21, 2015 at 9:25 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 3 Comments
(Photo courtesy NOAA Fisheries, Vancouver Aquarium, “taken by UAV from above 90 feet under NMFS research permit and FAA flight authorization.” Mother ID’d as J16 with calf J50)
New information today about Puget Sound’s endangered orcas – thanks to an aerial study done via drone – and NOAA says, among other things, what they found brings “hope for the population.” Here’s the news release we received this morning:
A NOAA Fisheries research team flying a remotely operated hexacopter in Washington’s San Juan Islands in September collected high-resolution aerial photogrammetry images of all 81 Southern Resident killer whales that showed the endangered whales in robust condition and that several appear to be pregnant.
Photogrammetry is the science of making measurements from photographs and has proven to be a powerful method for understanding the health of whales and other wildlife. Researchers can readily identify individual killer whales from the distinctive shape of their dorsal fin and saddle patch from the air or water, allowing them to track the condition of individual whales over time. Following analysis, individual growth and body condition from this year will be compared to previous photogrammetric assessments in 2008 and 2013 to assess changes.
The thousands of photogrammetry images collected to date provide important baseline information about the condition of the whales as a warm El Nino climate pattern takes hold along the West Coast following more than a year of already unusually warm ocean temperatures. El Nino and warm ocean conditions have in the past led to declines in salmon, the favored food of Southern Residents.
(May 15th photo of Polar Pioneer at T-5, by Long Bach Nguyen)
1:54 AM: Since Shell‘s announcement two weeks ago that it was shelving Arctic offshore drilling TFN, we’ve been awaiting word on where its rigs would wind up – whether there was any chance, for example, the Polar Pioneer would come back to West Seattle’s Terminal 5, where it spent a month before heading off to drill. You’ll recall that the T-5 interim tenant, Foss Maritime, said at the time that it was too soon to say.
According to new reports in two publications, both quoting Shell, the answer is “no.”
Both KUCB in Unalaska and the Peninsula Daily News in Port Angeles say the Polar Pioneer will head back to PA. KUCB reports that both the PP and Shell’s other rig, the Noble Discoverer, arrived Sunday in Unalaska’s Dutch Harbor. According to KUCB, the ND didn’t stay long, heading out on Monday, bound for Everett, where it was docked until heading north for Shell’s short-lived drilling effort. The PDN reports Shell isn’t saying when the Polar Pioneer is due back in those waters, where it spent four weeks before coming to T-5 for a similar stay. And we don’t know if any of the support vessels might return to T-5; the one that seemed to spend the most time there, Aiviq, is currently Everett-bound, according to MarineTraffic.com.
An overnight extra while it’s quiet: “Diver Laura” James and fellow diver Lamont G. recorded this video at Cove 2 earlier this week. “So many fish” that night, Laura enthused, while sharing the link, also noting that the sea stars are still more or less MIA.
P.S. We asked about the creature you’ll see about a minute in … “lemon peel nudibranch,” Laura replied.
P.P.S. Remember to do what you can to help keep the water clean for everything that lives there – minimizing deadly, toxic runoff is a start – find out how, here.
SATURDAY: Thanks to everybody who’s messaged to ask about this, including “cugrngneer,” who shared the photo: The state ferry you’re seeing in unusual places and unusual maneuvers today is the M/V Tacoma, which has been at Vigor on Harbor Island for a while and is now on sea trials getting ready to go back into service on the Bainbridge Island/Downtown Seattle run.
SUNDAY MORNING: Just saw Tacoma passing Fauntleroy, out on sea trials again today.
(ADDED: Photo by Paul Brannan - orca off Fauntleroy)
5:43 PM: Caller says a few orcas are southbound – playfully, not speedily – off Constellation Park south of Alki Point right now. Might be “transients,” which Orca Network says have been in the central Sound today. Let us know if you see them!
7:46 PM: Adding a photo – thanks, Paul!
8:25 PM: And thanks to Araya Casey Photography for sharing these images:
The photos were taken in the Alki area.
(Photo taken from Alki today, by Trileigh Tucker)
10:51 AM: Multiple reports of whales in the Alki Point vicinity. First, the Orca Network cited a WSF report of orcas; Jeff from Killer Whale Tales says it might instead be the humpbacks that have been in the area. Off to look!
11:24 AM: Breezy morning so lots of whitecaps off both Constellation Park and Alki – hard to see whale spouts unless you’re really close (or have a great eye/telescope). Jeff says the humpbacks have been breaching in the ferry lanes north of Alki Point. (West Seattle-based The Whale Trail offers a species-by-species guide if you’re not sure you’d know the difference between a humpback and an orca.)
12:41 PM: West Seattle photographer Trileigh Tucker saw one from Alki – and has the photo to prove it. Added above – thanks!
Around 4 pm, Holland America Line’s Amsterdam and Noordam and Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Pearl are scheduled to sail out of Elliott Bay, ending the 2015 Seattle cruise season. According to the Port of Seattle‘s media advisory for the departures:
For the eighth year in a row, Port of Seattle cruise terminals welcomed over 800,000 revenue passengers. This year brought 192 cruise ship calls. Seattle’s cruise business — currently leading all cruise homeports on the West Coast in passenger volume — is responsible for over 3,600 jobs, $441 million in annual business revenue, and $17.2 million annually in state and local tax revenues. Each homeported cruise vessel brings $2.5 million to the local economy.
Amsterdam and Noordam are leaving Pier 91 in Magnolia; Norwegian Pearl is sailing from Pier 66 downtown.
5:08 PM: Via Orca Network on Twitter and Facebook, “Washington State Ferries reports a large whale, probably a humpback, off the Fauntleroy dock in West Seattle.” Please let us know if you see it (and which way it seems to be heading)!
6:50 PM: Sheri reports, via Twitter, that she just saw it dive off Lincoln Park, and that it’s heading north.
For the fifth time in less than a year, Puget Sound’s Southern Resident Killer Whales have welcomed a baby. The Instagram-shared photo above and news release below are from the Center for Whale Research:
Today there was another new baby in the L pod! L91 was first seen near Sooke, BC this morning with a very newborn calf, confirmed a few hours later by Mark Malleson off Victoria, BC and CWR staffers, Dave Ellifrit and Melissa Pinnow, and by colleagues Drs. John Durban, Holly Fearnbach, and Lance Barrett-Lennard.
These latter colleagues happened to be in the area conducting a sequel to CWR aerial measurements of all of the SRKW’s (Southern Resident Killer Whales), this time with a very sophisticated hexacopter (Unmanned Aerial System – UAS, or drone). The measurements were accomplished on the US side of the border as Dave and Melissa took numerous identification photographs from the research vessel “Orca” at a respectful distance. The new calf is designated L122, and is the fifth new baby to come into the population since December, 2014. The mother and baby and other L pod whales spent the afternoon and evening in Haro Strait ‘fishing’, and by day’s end were joined by J and K pod members.
In the forty-year history of ORCA SURVEY, a long-term photo-identification study of this whale population, the greatest number of calves born in a year was 9 in 1977, and there were none born that survived in 2013 or 2014. We hope this year’s ‘baby boom’ represents a turnaround in what has been a negative population trend in recent years.
If you have eyes on Elliott Bay, watch for spouts. Ian reports via Twitter that he’s seen multiple spouts by an unknown type of whale that’s “made a huge circle of the bay.” (P.S. Our most recent sighting report was last Sunday, humpbacks near Alki Point.)
Thanks to Guy and Joy Smith for the photo and this report:
At 9 o’clock this am, we saw 2 marine mammals traveling south off Alki Point. They were exhaling big clouds of steam and we knew they were too large to be either Harbor or Dall’s Porpoises. We grabbed our handy guide, handed out by the Whale Trail organization at the Bath House this summer, and it indicates they were probably Minke whales. They are in the 20 to 30 foot range and that’s about what we guessed. Wikipedia says their dives can be up to 20 minutes. If we had known to wait that long we might have gotten another picture.
Obviously Guy and Joy saw more than just this photo, so they were gauging by more than what’s seen in the photo, but the fin also looks like it could have been a humpback. Anyone else see these whales?
Three reports of orcas off our shores – most recently, just before 2:30 pm, off Beach Drive in the Me-Kwa-Mooks vicinity, headed southbound. As always, we hope you’ll let us know (comments or text/voice 206-293-6302) if you see them!
1:26 PM UPDATE: We looked from Constellation Park, around Duwamish Head and beyond, no sightings, and we’ve heard nothing further; checked the Orca Network as well, and assuming this is the group of “transient” killer whales their readers spotted, they have no further sightings either, with speculation the whales might have gone into Kitsap waters. Could turn up later!
Last night, we mentioned a barge full of trash including tsunami debris was expected at Waste Management Northwest‘s South Park dock in time for a media event tomorrow morning. Looks like it’ll be there in plenty of time:
Steve just sent these photos from the low bridge as a barge matching the WMNW photos went through, headed southbound on the Duwamish River:
Here’s more backstory – including some details we didn’t have in last night’s story – the barge is the Dioskouroi.
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