West Seattle whale watching: Orcas sighted off our shores!

(ADDED FRIDAY NIGHT: Three more photos here!)

(Top photo added 1:44 pm, taken by Craig Savey from Pier 17 on Harbor Island; photo below added 9:40 am – WSB photo by Patrick Sand, from Me-Kwa-Mooks)

8:15 AM: First sighting of the season – just got a text (thanks!) that orcas were seen from the West Seattle Water Taxi this morning. Checking Twitter and the Orca Network Facebook page, it doesn’t seem to be an isolated sighting. (Added: We’re getting LOTS of notes now – definitely something many are seeing, including from downtown!) Keep an eye out and please share if you get them on camera.

(iPad photo courtesy Trileigh Tucker – orca off the downtown docks)
8:56 AM UPDATE: Reported off the Alki business district as of minutes ago. (Moved on by the time we got there, though. Not sure if headed south or north from Alki Point, but Beach Drive, keep an eye out!)

9:20 AM UPDATE: Multiple reports indicate they are headed south – BD, Fauntleroy, Arroyos, be on the lookout. And thanks again to the MANY people who have texted, e-mailed, called, Tweeted, posted/commented on the WSB Facebook wall.

9:40 AM UPDATE: WSB co-publisher Patrick Sand caught up with West Seattle’s resident whale-watching experts, Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail and Jeff Hogan from Killer Whale Tales, at Me-Kwa-Mooks. With their guidance, he caught some on camera – we’ve added one photo atop this story and one atop this paragraph. Donna is sharing binoculars from the new Whale Trail whale-watching kits.

She says they’re “transients” – not the orcas that live year-round in the Puget Sound/San Juans area.

10:03 AM UPDATE: Talked to Jeff by phone a few minutes ago. He says they’ve moved out of range, south of Brace Point, and confirms that the Center for Whale Research says they’re transients (this explains how orcas are ID’d), more than 20 of them. (But what heads south, must come north, so more sightings are possible later!)

ADDED 11 AM: Video clip above this line is from the Water Taxi this morning (thanks to Patrick P!) – watch the top left for spouts. And KIRO TV’s chopper video is here.

ADDED 1:48 PM: KIRO’s video is not embeddable, so we can’t show you the player here, but KING 5 now has video and theirs is:

KING reports that was shot off Maury Island.

28 Replies to "West Seattle whale watching: Orcas sighted off our shores!"

  • Stuckatwork August 26, 2011 (8:59 am)

    I’m in a building in downtown, off western, overlooking the ferry terminal area. We started to see them pop up around 7:52am pst and just recently lost sight of them. They came in behind the ferry’s and headed over to that large coast guard ship by where that spear radar thing was. Was a great sighting!

  • RG August 26, 2011 (9:02 am)

    I’d go check it out if it weren’t for that irritating helicopter hovering…

  • Ed August 26, 2011 (9:16 am)

    They are around the point and heading south.
    Seem to be heading toward Blake Island.

  • JR August 26, 2011 (9:17 am)

    I was on the water taxi this morning as the pod was moving through. Great way to start the work day. Thanks to Capt. Tara for letting us detour a few minutes to whale watch!

  • RILEY & SYDNEY W August 26, 2011 (9:18 am)


  • Amanda August 26, 2011 (9:18 am)

    Confirmed! Vashon/Seattle Water Taxi idled about mid-trip this morning to watch the pod seemingly in pursuit of something for breakfast maybe? :) Heading south. While I irritatingly forgot my camera this morning, there were plenty ‘o pix being taken by the many 8:15 commuters, and I asked those around me to post any good shots here! Hopefully, by day’s end, you’ll have some good pix :) Best. Commute. EVER.

  • YzzyMa August 26, 2011 (9:37 am)

    Had JUST brought kidlet to Aquarium camp ~ 8:15. Staff announced there were orcas off drydocks. We all ran to the windows & watched for the next 10-15 min as they made their way north & around to Alki point. Looked like all the boat traffic was being very respectful. Very very awesome way to start the day.

  • mike August 26, 2011 (9:42 am)

    Any word on present whereabouts? Thinking of throwing my camera in the car and heading out for them…

    • WSB August 26, 2011 (9:49 am)

      JUST got a call from Jeff of Killer Whale Tales – they have just passed Brace Point, still heading south. So that puts them out of West Seattle range. But of course, what goes south, must head north again … so we’ll have radar up for later …

  • kte August 26, 2011 (9:52 am)

    Thank you Donna from Whale Trail for sharing your binoculars with me! What an awesome sight!

  • j August 26, 2011 (10:30 am)

    Thanks to West Seattle blog for keeping us updated on their whereabouts! I have never seen one in the sound, but with you guys helping guide me, I hopefully will see one soon! I think I was just a few minutes off of seeing them cruise down Alki this morning. The seals along Alki were going crazy!

  • Amanda August 26, 2011 (10:39 am)

    Chopper 7 posted some great video of the pod in action this morning:


  • Kayak Alki August 26, 2011 (10:55 am)

    Great seeing the transients back in the area! Come out and paddle with us to talk about the natural history of these creatures.
    Watch out seals!
    Greg and the Alki Kayak Tours crew.

  • Donna, The Whale Trail August 26, 2011 (11:04 am)

    You’re welcome, kte – and thanks to REI for donating the binoculars! We will always have plenty to share now. A spectacular morning on the West Seattle Whale Trail! And as WSB advises, keep your eyes open. Last we heard from Jeff they were mid-channel near Three Tree Point.

  • Trileigh August 26, 2011 (1:56 pm)

    Wow, that new photo by Craig Savey (taken from Harbor Island) is wonderful! Lucky position to be in!

    Hope they come back this way this afternoon.

  • CMeagh August 26, 2011 (2:11 pm)

    WOW!!! Craig- great photo!!! I wish I was able to see the Orcas in person, but that picture is the next best thing. Great shot!!!

  • Amanda August 26, 2011 (2:19 pm)

    Further update, and not a good one:

    From Orca Network on FB (https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Orca-Network/79401335600): A killer whale, probable SRKW, was struck by a private boater off San Juan at around 1145am at Hannah Heights; it is L90, “Ballena” born in 1993. Apparently is swimming better than a couple of hours ago. She is swimming with L26 her mom and L92 and another unidentified animal.

    So, not one of the whales we’ve been watching this morning, but still…There is an online site via NOAA to turn in any pics of offending boaters…and there is also a place to report boaters who are harassing via the Whale Museum site as well.

    • WSB August 26, 2011 (2:53 pm)

      Thanks, Amanda. That’s one of the missions of The Whale Trail (mentioned in our story) – to encourage land-based whale-watching. It is possible, unfortunately, to love these majestic creatures to death, literally. The residents still number fewer than 100 – so fragile.

  • Noelle August 26, 2011 (2:47 pm)


  • Amanda August 26, 2011 (3:42 pm)

    WSB, I am 100% behind loving them from a nice safe distance…it’s one thing to already be out on the water and they approach a boat that is NOT MOVING, but another altogether to zip out there looking for trouble…hoping that whomever hit the San Juan whale will be caught and prosecuted, if nothing else, for excessive stupidity. Thanks for all the good reporting, WSB!

  • Ed August 26, 2011 (7:41 pm)

    It may be a little quick to decide that it was hit by a boater that saw the whale and got too close rather than a pure accident….which is very possible.

    • WSB August 26, 2011 (7:56 pm)

      The Orca Network page has since carried coverage that appears to indicate this may not have happened at all, or that the whale appears uninjured. I don’t have their direct link handy but if you go to Facebook and search “Orca Network” you’ll find the page.

  • marty August 26, 2011 (8:20 pm)

    Eating all of those pink salmon that run on odd numbered years. They are slimey and go down real easily!!

  • Amanda August 26, 2011 (8:22 pm)

    Confirmed on the Orca Watch FB page – belief is now that the orca “hit” is actually preggers, as she’s been acting wonky for a while. So, happy ending! And note to self – verify verify verify.

  • Mark Christopher August 26, 2011 (10:40 pm)

    I have been fishing just out from Golden Gardens last few mornings and taking my nephew. What a sight this Friday AM at about 6am when this transient Pod rolled through all the fishing boats. Great job to everyone keeping distance and not chasing them…right after they swam around and had a feast the bite was on for many of the fishing boats…it was a great experience to share with my nephew. I called my parent company KOMO/Fisher Broadcasting to have them share the word and wonder to early commuters.

  • FridayHarbor August 27, 2011 (12:54 pm)

    Video of orcas swimming off San Juan Island.

  • Donna, The Whale Trail August 28, 2011 (5:20 pm)

    Belatedly checking in to say thanks, WSB, for reminding everyone that one of the best ways you can enjoy and protect orcas at the same time is to watch them from shore.
    Regarding the L-90 incident – since NOAA is still actively investigating this, it is premature to assume that no collision occurred.
    And while I hope the Center for Whale Research is accurate in its assessment, a key point has been lost: the boat was likely too close to the whale, regardless of whether she was actually hit or not.
    Ballena may have gotten lucky this time. What about the next? For the endangered southern resident orcas, the loss of even a single orca is significant.
    Boaters- be sure to follow the Be Whale Wise guidelines (www.bewhalewise.org). Everyone else, see you along the shore!

  • ccrider September 15, 2011 (5:48 pm)

    I love seeing photos and hearing about whales that are in seattle.

Sorry, comment time is over.