WSB photos by Christopher Boffoli and Patrick Sand; reader contributions credited below
From shortly after the first text message came in early Sunday morning, until a Washington State Ferries crew finished a short tow early Sunday evening, we covered here how hundreds of people, responders and spectators, dealt with West Seattle’s first stranded whale in six years. We shared many scenes of the day in photos and video, but we have more to show – telling the story, really, of the people as much as of the whale (including, added 6:56 am, “Diver Laura” James‘s 360-degree video):
By day’s end, researchers had declared this to be a female juvenile humpback whale, 39 feet long, much thinner than she should have been.
At the start, we knew only that it was a humpback, and that it was still alive, for a while. From the ferry-dock walkway, we heard its occasional shuddering breaths, and at one point felt the mist of a mighty spout – like this one recorded on video just after 8 am, by DLBJ:
Though it could not dive, its hump was seen to arch, its fluke rose out of the water, as you can see, repeatedly, in Jim Clark‘s video:
As the tide went out, responders went in – as you can see at the end of Jim’s video – to try to keep the whale wet:
But even by then, something had changed. No more audible breaths. The fluke simply floated. The whale’s life had ebbed away, as the tide did, revealing her full majesty.
All along the way – the responders … from near, including Seal Sitters (left foreground below, David Hutchinson and Lynn Shimamoto) and even Seattle Police:
Seal Sitters’ Robin Lindsey was an early arrival, setting up the protection perimeter on the privately owned beach:
The biologists – from Cascadia Research Collective as well as state and federal:
(Click here for the full-on view of what that cutting revealed.)
All dwarfed by their subject:
Close-up, you could see the barnacles, the whale lice, that hitch rides on whales like this:
Throughout the day, people came to look, to consider:
Even drivers coming off the ferries slowed to gawk, and Washington State Ferries made numerous reminder announcements throughout the day to keep things moving and to try to keep the sidewalks clear:
Down on the beach, residents graciously accommodated the people who came with a job to do, us included. Our thanks in particular to Mike Dey and Susan Lantz-Dey, who provided a chair and coffee. Until the texts started going off early on what was supposed to be Seafair Sunday, we didn’t realize it would turn out to be a whale of a day.
(Added 6:56 am) As mentioned in our coverage, “Diver Laura” James brought her 360-degree video gear. After hitting “play,” you can click the video and “drag” it around to see the full view – above, below, behind, wherever you want to look:
(View it on the YouTube site by going here.)
WHAT’S NEXT: As reported in our Sunday coverage, the whale is to be towed out this morning to someplace where it can be sunk. At some point afterward, we can expect to hear what was found in the necropsy work done on the beach.