West Seattle Whale Watch: Orcas spotted off West Seattle

(Added — photo by Trileigh Tucker)
9:55 AM: Just got that word from Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales – ferry-dock area. We’re off to check; let us know if you see ’em!

11:22 AM: Too far for photos but we were watching for a while with Jeff and with Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail, from south of Alki Point. They say it’s J-Pod – including the new baby. (Added – photo by Gary Jones, who thinks the smaller whale was likely the calf)

They were last seen headed back north, but Jeff also mentioned a short time ago that there was a secondhand report of more whales headed this way from the Three Tree Point area, so if you have a water view, keep checking!

(Photo by Gary Jones – note the orca’s fluke, at left)
1:21 PM: We’re adding photos received from WSB’ers who were out watching the whales.

2:22 PM: KING 5‘s aerial video – already linked in the comments – is now embedded above.

25 Replies to "West Seattle Whale Watch: Orcas spotted off West Seattle"

  • sam-c January 6, 2012 (10:36 am)

    any update on where they might be now?

  • sam-c January 6, 2012 (10:52 am)

    got an update from the family-
    1500 feet out- at constellation park.
    they saw 3 or 4 of them.

  • Trileigh January 6, 2012 (11:02 am)

    Lots of them – off the north side of Alki!

  • Trileigh January 6, 2012 (11:02 am)

    ( including the new baby!

  • Chivahn January 6, 2012 (11:07 am)

    I just moved my business down the road from Alki from Georgetown…..now I wanna skip out on work to go see! XD

  • Trileigh January 6, 2012 (11:21 am)

    Watching from Alki – group is heading north – midchannel across from Winslow.

  • Chivahn January 6, 2012 (11:23 am)

    I hope there are pictures!

  • RG January 6, 2012 (11:26 am)

    Is that why the loud helicopter is hovering? If so, can someone please tell me why they are allowed to do that? Isn’t that harassment? Is it bad for the orcas? Doesn’t it discourage them from coming into this area? For me, helicopters always ruin the beauty of the orca visits.

  • Donna, The Whale Trail January 6, 2012 (12:58 pm)

    We watched from Alki till we couldn’t see them anymore – they continued going north and are at Discovery Pt. now.

    J-pod has 26 members, including the oldest female in the southern resident community (Granny or J-2) and the newest calf, J-48. They were in no particular hurry today, miling around, breaching, spyhopping and tail-lobbing now and then.

    I think the air distance requirement is 1000 feet but need to check on that.

    What a treat to see them today – a welcome start to the new year! Thanks WSB for your help getting the word out – and Jeff for the heads-up they were here.

  • sam-c January 6, 2012 (1:05 pm)

    thank you for the tip!
    it was a great last minute sight-seeing trip for my M-I-L who is now on her way back across the country !

    • WSB January 6, 2012 (1:08 pm)

      Thanks for the updates – I had one foot out the door on an unrelated prescheduled story when Jeff called – Patrick talked to him and I turned the computer back on to send a short note out via WSB, FB, and Twitter before continuing on to the unrelated story (one of these days I’m going to get to go see the whales, really, someday). I’m just now getting some photos in from kind folks including Trileigh Tucker and Gary Jones – Patrick went down to the shore but I had our “good” camera and they weren’t really in range of the video camera he had – and am adding the received photos to the story … TR

  • JoB January 6, 2012 (1:29 pm)

    i missed them again:(
    they passed right by the front window of our vacation rental on Whidby Island over new years.. and delighted viewers in the park where we walked our dogs and we still missed them :(
    at least i get to see the pictures:)

  • Russ January 6, 2012 (1:33 pm)

    Here’s the archived video of the pod from KING5.com: http://www.king5.com/video/featured-videos/Orcas-swimming-off-Alki-Point-136829513.html

    • WSB January 6, 2012 (1:35 pm)

      Thanks – I tried to embed it while it was live but there was no embed code, which was unusual. If this has embed code I’ll add it above too – TR

  • Neal Chism January 6, 2012 (3:34 pm)

    Somebody wanna call WSF and give them a clue? Look at 3:35 into the King 5 clip….

  • Neal Chism January 6, 2012 (4:40 pm)

    OK, I am guessing that Tracy can find better contacts that you all can call next time, however.
    Call Mark Ashley at USCG Vessel Traffic Control and tell them you see the Orca in the shipping lanes. 206-217-6152 or mark.e.ashley@uscg.mil
    Boeing Field, Leslie Barstow, 206-296-7431 and tell them what you see with the helicopters and you have concerns.
    The ships monitor Marine VHF radio channels, and the helicopters must monitor the Boeing Field Tower channel while out over Elliott Bay.
    Ships are under control of USCG and the aircraft fixed wing or other are under control of Boeing Field right out off Elliott Bay.

  • Trileigh January 6, 2012 (5:27 pm)

    (Oops, sorry – my photo above says “2011,” but that was a New Year typo: it really was taken this morning at 11:30!)

  • seewhatsealionsstart January 6, 2012 (5:39 pm)

    Sweet photo’s you all, thanx for sharing.

  • seewhatsealionsstart January 6, 2012 (8:14 pm)

    @Neal-I was watching the orca from Queen Anne at the time they were being filmed by the news helicopters and therefore when the orca were in the ferry lanes. At the time I was somewhat concerned but I could tell the ferry slowed upon approach and the orca actually came to a stall during the encounter (they were in the middle of the two lanes of east west traffic during that footage).
    Also, there was a research boat with the orca so I was thinking they would have intervened and/or were in touch with the WSF if necessary. WSF is usually made aware, or first to sight the orca when in the sound. I actually witnessed the Mukilteo run come to a dead stop last month when J pod was in the ferry lane.

  • Neal Chism January 6, 2012 (9:36 pm)

    “so I was thinking they would have intervened”
    The helicopter crew was filming on the lead animal and this animal seem to turn abruptly, as you suggest. So you can see the lead orca reacting to something. Looked like about thirty seconds prior to closest approach, maybe 3:00 into the clip.
    About that time the helicopter camera crew zooms out abruptly looking for something, and then we see the ferry come into view.
    You also can see the ferry did have some left rudder input (to port) a bit prior to the pod encounter. Maybe the ferry crew did finally see the situation ahead, but the ferry still won’t turn on a dime, and the boat did come within about 1.25 boat lengths of the lead animal (and the rest of the pod) based on the video.
    So why did the ferry come this close to the pod at that speed after orca had been observed in the area for several hours before, based on the aerial video post time?
    I would have thought the whole bay would have switched over to sightseeing mode based on the number of animals present.
    All I am saying is, have a phone number ready and call the Coast Guard as soon as these animals get spotted anywhere near the shipping lanes so that ship traffic can be alerted.

  • Donna, The Whale Trail January 9, 2012 (4:30 pm)

    A few updates on last week’s sighting, per NOAA researchers who were with the orcas.
    –it was J *and* K pods – approximately 46 whales in total, though not all matrilines were observed.
    –the newest calf, J-48, was not observed. Researchers will wait for another encounter with the pod to confirm whether or not the calf is alive. (Orca calf survival rates are approximately 50%, so it’s not entirely unexpected, but never good news.)
    –Violators of whale-watching guidelines and regulations should be reported to NOAA Fisheries by phone (1-800-853-1964) or online (http://www.bewhalewise.org/report-violators/)

    Keep watching – and see you along the Whale Trail!

  • RG January 9, 2012 (7:30 pm)

    Thanks so much for the information Donna. I’ve had such an affinity for them since childhood. It’s hard not to be overly fond of them! And, their intelligence is nothing short of astounding.

  • tk January 10, 2012 (11:25 am)

    I thought Orcas weren’t actually whales?

  • Donna, The Whale Trail January 10, 2012 (1:52 pm)

    RG – yes! There are so many of us who share that affinity – let’s hope we can work together to help get them off the Endangered Species list –
    tk – you’re right – orcas are the largest members of the dolphin family (delphinidae). Dolphins are part of the suborder Odontocetes, which also includes toothed whales like sperm whales. Of course orcas are also known as killer whales; we use the term whales a little loosely to describe them.

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