West Seattle, Washington
On Sunday, we reported on another visit by Southern Resident Killer Whales. No visuals, though, until tonight:
That video is by Hannah Schuh, a seventh-grader at Madison Middle School. Her mom Liz Schuh sent us the clip, recorded at Point Robinson on Maury Island (a popular whale-watching spot since Puget Sound’s main channel narrows there and you have a better chance of a close pass). Viewing advice from Liz: “After the breaching whale, another group surfaces, including one of the babies.”
The babies are part of J-Pod, which may have another calf soon – we also received photos tonight from Brittany Philbin of PNW Orca Pod Squad Photography – a pregnant orca, also photographed from Point Robinson:
The photographer explains, “During their close pass, J46 Star breached just offshore and luckily I was in the right place at the right time and captured a photo at just the right angle to see her heavily pregnant abdomen. She has been confirmed by researchers to be pregnant. I just thought residents of West Seattle would love to see these photos of J46 Star. They are so beloved throughout the Pacific Northwest.”
J46 was born in November 2009.
11:40 AM: Just got a call from Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch – orcas are heading for West Seattle waters again, currently southbound in the Bainbridge Island ferry lanes. Let us know if you see them!
12:05 PM: Jeff Hogan from Killer Whale Tales says they’re visible off Alki Point.
12:17 PM: Saw them! From north Emma Schmitz Overlook, with binoculars.
1:51 PN: Just seen off The Arroyos, per commenter Desertdweller, still southbound.
10:20 AM: Jeff Hogan from Killer Whale Tales just called with an update – they’re now off Emma Schmitz Overlook, still southbound.
11:52 AM: Kersti Muul from Salish Wildlife Watch says in comments that they’ve turned around and are now northbound.
10:24 AM: Thanks to Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch for the heads-up: Southern Resident Killer Whales are heading in our direction, southbound off Shilshole at last report. Last time, they turned around before making it this far south, but here’s an early alert just in case they keep going this time.
11:50 AM: Getting closer – see comments.
12:55 PM: Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail called with an update – still southbound but slowly, off Bainbridge.
1:42 PM: Donna just called again to say the orcas are rounding Alki Point! Kersti says they’re from J-Pod.
Thanks to Roger for the photo (and to others who tipped us too). The two port cranes passing West Seattle on their way out of Elliott Bay this afternoon are from Terminal 46 on the downtown waterfront. We mentioned them 2 1/2 weeks ago; their previously scheduled sail date was in the midst of the wildfire smoke. These cranes are headed to Everett to be scrapped, says port spokesperson Peter McGraw, who also tells us one old crane was left behind at T-46 for longshore-worker training.
Two Washington State Ferries notes:
TWO WITH TUGS: Thanks to Maureen for the photo. That’s MV Spokane with tugs this morning, passing Alki. Don sent a similar photo of MV Tacoma going by with two tugs on Saturday. WSF spokesperson Ian Sterling confirms Spokane was headed to drydock at Vigor on Harbor Island today, while Tacoma was headed out after the same, sending this photo taken while work was under way:
Tacoma is back in service on the Bainbridge Island route today.
VASHON ISLAND DOCK WORK: If you use the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth route, note that it will be affected this afternoon/evening by repair work:
(Today) WSF maintenance crews will be doing necessary repair work to components on one of the vehicle loading ramps at the Vashon dock. This work will begin after the 3:30 pm departure from Vashon and will require a closure of approximately 11 hours to complete. During this time, only one functioning loading slip will be available at Vashon, which will likely lead to vessel delays in the afternoon and evening. Updates will be provided as they become available.
If you’re awaiting a ferry, you can check its status via Vessel Watch.
If we see the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales sometime soon here in central Puget Sound, look – from shore – for that new little one, J57. The Center for Whale Research has published its announcement about seeing the new calf (first reported by Lynda Mapes in The Seattle Times), accompanied by researchers’ photos (which we are republishing with permission).
CWR believes Friday is the day J35 – at right, above, with the new baby and J47 – gave birth. Their researchers saw the newborn on Saturday in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. J35 is also known as Tahlequah, who broke hearts around the world two years ago by carrying her dead calf on her head for 1,000 miles before finally letting it go. Researchers knew she was pregnant again – orca gestation is 18 months – but she had not yet given birth as of researchers’ sightings in Haro Strait last Tuesday and Thursday, when they also saw the other expectant J-Pod orca, J41. In the Saturday sighting, CWR reports, the “new calf appeared healthy and precocious, swimming vigorously alongside its mother in its second day of free-swimming life.”
CWR’s announcement adds, “We hope this calf is a success story. Regrettably, with the whales having so much nutritional stress in recent years, a large percentage of pregnancies fail, and there is about a 40% mortality for young calves.” For now, though, the SRKWs number 73, and advocates are hoping for a reduction in other stresses such as boat noise (we reported earlier this week on the request that U.S. whale-watching boats pledge to join their Canadian counterparts in not following the SRKWs).
Thanks to all the early risers who sent photos! Two more Terminal 5 cranes were moved out early this morning, on a Tacoma-bound barge.
When one of the cranes was moved on August 26th, the Northwest Seaport Alliance/Port of Seattle said two more would be moved this past week. However, when we followed up several days ago about the schedule, in hopes we could share advance news of when to watch, the port told us the move was rescheduled for the week of September 14th. So this is a bit of a surprise.
The three cranes’ Tacoma move follows Matson relocating its weekly Hawaii service there after a year at T-5.
The port says the three cranes that aren’t moving will be dismantled before new, bigger cranes arrive at T-5 next year.
Thanks to James Tilley for the photo of an outbound U.S. Navy submarine, seen from West Seattle as it headed north in Puget Sound this morning. MarineTraffic.com shows it’s now off Whidbey Island, but as usual, identifies it only as “a submarine.” Last similar sighting reported by WSB readers was in June, and the general consensus in a lively discussion was that it was a Seawolf-class submarine. Three of them are homeported at Naval Base Kitsap (Bangor); the Kitsap Sun noted in June that the USS Jimmy Carter had been undergoing work at the Bremerton naval shipyard. (The other two are the USS Connecticut and USS Seawolf; the former completed work at Bremerton a year ago, while the latter was recently seen in Norway.)
In the 360-degree videos above and below, “Diver Laura” James takes you into the kelp forest off Lincoln Park.
Laura has been doing some informal research on the kelp, which was reported to be far denser along Puget Sound shores decades ago, before various man-made/-caused changes to the shoreline. If you’ve been observing the area – walking, boating, even diving – over the past 20 to 30 years, she would love to hear from you – email@example.com is the email address.
Thanks to Stewart L. for the photo. Seen in Elliott Bay this morning, that’s the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker USCGC Healy (WAGB-20), making an early return home. As announced by the USCG earlier this month, the Healy had to return for repairs after an August 18th electrical fire. It was off Alaska at the time, en route “to ensure national security and conduct science operations in the Arctic.” No one was hurt. The Healy is one of only two USCG icebreakers; construction of a new one is expected to start next year at a shipyard in Mississippi.
1:38 PM: Orcas are off Constellation Patk, southbound, fairly close to shore, Kersti Muul reports. Let us know if you see them!
2:16 PM: Kersti says they’re now passing Lowman Beach.
2:40 PM: And now, she reports, approaching The Arroyos.
10:50 PM: Tonight Kersti sent some of her photos from the visit, including the scene discussed in the comments – standup paddleboarders who got an incredibly close view:
Kersti followed along by land as the orcas headed south and says they dove for 10 minutes at a time, and the boarders just happened to be there.
She says the passing orcas were T137A (male) and T137B (female) – brother and sister. She adds, “T137A has fully recovered from a horrendous injury he had last year near his tail. It was a big gash that was most likely from a sea lion. He was unable to hunt for himself and he lagged behind his family as they helped him. I’m always happy to see him!”
The T’s are transient orcas, who, unlike the residents, eat sea lions and other marine mammals as well as fish.
As Jim Borrow‘s photo from today’s port-crane move reminds us, Puget Sound can be a busy place. If you’re among those who navigate its waters, the U.S. Coast Guard has a survey for you. Here’s the announcement they asked us to share:
The Coast Guard is seeking public comment in regard to its ongoing Waterways Analysis and Management System (WAMS) review of Puget Sound from Possession Sound to Dalco Passage. [map]
The Coast Guard uses WAMS to validate the adequacy of existing aids to navigation (ATON) system, as well as to get a better understanding of the uses of each waterway and general safety issues.
WAMS focuses on the waterway’s current ATON system, marine casualty information, port and harbor resources, changes in recreational and commercial marine vessel usage and future development projects.
The comment deadline is Nov. 20. For more information contact Lt. j.g Katie Matha at 206-220-7283 or Katie.E.Matha@uscg.mil.
To participate in the survey, go here and choose the Puget Sound North survey.
12:02 PM: Thanks for the photo! Last week, we reported that three cranes are moving from West Seattle’s Terminal 5 to Tacoma, now that Matson has moved its weekly Hawaii service there. The first crane is being moved today – it’s just left T-5 by barge, and the Northwest Seaport Alliance says it’ll arrive in Tacoma around 5 pm, passing West Seattle shores along the way. Two more are to be moved next week, says the NWSA. Three others will be dismantled and removed later this year; new cranes will arrive next year in time for the opening of the first expanded berth of the T-5 modernization project.
12:18 PM: Now visible off west-facing West Seattle. (added) Photo sent by Sue in Morgan Junction:
After 17 months undergoing regularly scheduled maintenance, Mighty CVN 70 is underway! Want to see more pics and video? Check out our Facebook page @USSVinson pic.twitter.com/dEvhTpnDK4
— USS Carl Vinson (@CVN70) August 23, 2020
P.S. The Kitsap Sun reports that we won’t likely have another carrier sighting for a while – USS Nimitz (CVN 68) is out on deployment; the next carrier due for major work at Bremerton is USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), next year.
Thanks to Jim Borrow for the photo. If you were out looking for orcas from the shore of Elliott Bay this afternoon, your binoculars might have shown you that gigayacht instead. Bravo Eugenia, owned by football mogul Jerry Jones – who owns the Dallas Cowboys – and named for his wife, has been anchored in the bay for a few days. MarineTraffic.com shows it sailed here from Auke Bay in Alaska; British Columbia news sites noted it passing Vancouver Island despite COVID-19 travel restrictions. The 357-foot gigayacht was built by Oceanco, noted this report touting its fuel efficiency, among other features. (Two helipads, says this report.) How much longer will it be here? No hint in regional-media reports so far!
Thanks to Kersti Muul for the report – transient orcas are southbound off Eagle Harbor (Bainbridge Island), “more east in the channel.” Let us know if you see them!
Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip! She says transient orcas are off West Seattle again, this time headed northeast, between here and mid-Blake Island. Let us know if you see them!
Thanks to Stewart L. for that photo of a yacht passing West Seattle this afternoon, headed into the Duwamish River, the 217-foot Hodor. According to this link Stewart found, and other info we subsequently turned up, Hodor is no mere superyacht – it’s a European-built SUPPORT yacht, meant to support another superyacht … with features from a helipad to an ROV. This SuperYacht Times story from a year ago has more details and photos; a related website says the Hodor and the yacht it supports are owned by billionaire Lorenzo Fertitta. The Hodor s currently anchored off Magnolia, according to MarineTraffic.com, as is its “mothership” Lonian; Puget Sound Business Journal writer Patti Payne explains why.
Transient orcas, seen in the area a few days ago. are back – reported off Fay Bainbridge State Park and heading southwest about an hour ago, so you’d definitely need binoculars, but this is a heads-up to be on the lookout. (Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip!)
Thanks to David Hutchinson for sending photos from orcas’ visit to Elliott Bay on Thursday evening.
These were transient orcas, not the Southern Residents.
Unlike the resident whales, transients’ food sources include other mammals – seals, sea lions, even other whales.
David’s photos were taken from Duwamish Head and the Alki promenade.