West Seattle, Washington
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.
1:03 PM: Heads-up for whale lovers – Kersti Muul shares the news that southbound orcas were reported mid-channel off Shilshole about half an hour ago, so unless they change their direction, they could be in view now, or soon, off West Seattle. Let us know if you see them!
1:57 PM: Kersti says they’re “Visible with binocs from Alki and Sunset overlook.”
Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip to keep an eye out for orcas today – as of a short time ago, “Orcas are northbound again at entrance to Colvos Passage. Two groups today – one went south and is at Pt. Defiance.” That’s Tacoma, so you might not see them any time soon, but Colvos Passage is along the west shore of Vashon Island, so if those whales continue heading northbound, they will be in view from here. Let us know if you see them!
Lots of boats on Elliott Bay right now. Thanks to Jim Borrow for the photo and explanation – it’s the always-popular one-day season for spot-shrimp fishing. (Not even one full day – 7 am to 1 pm in Elliott Bay, 7 am to 11 am west of the bay – but the state’s announcement notes, “Additional dates and times may be announced if enough quota remains” afterward.) ADDED: This of course has filled Don Armeni Boat Ramp’s lot – this photo, from early morning, is by Stewart L:
Thanks to Lura (who sent the photo above) and Peter for the tips – the seasonal bloom of Noctiluca is back. Our archives have sightings going back a decade; the state Ecology Department says sightings were reported as far back as the mid-1940s. Sometimes (like last year) it’s been seen by mid-May, sometimes not until mid-July, sometimes not at all. The state has a simple explanation here – it’s NOT toxic, and it’s NOT a spill, though it’s also NOT a good thing – and more research details here.
Thanks to Duncan for the photo. That U.S. Navy submarine passed West Seattle as it headed northbound in Puget Sound a short time ago – MarineTraffic.com, which identifies it only as “U.S. submarine,” shows it already well north of here.
Thanks to Stewart L. for the photo. That’s USCGC Healy, one of the Coast Guard’ two icebreakers. It’s based in Seattle and currently doing sea trials to get ready for its next mission.
Friday ended on the gray side. So we’ll start the holiday weekend with some views shared by your West Seattle neighbors earlier in the week:
Some beautiful sunsets – above is Theresa Arbow O’Connor‘s photo from Thursday night; below, Lynn Hall‘s photo from Monday night:
Tuesday night, Nicole Neufeld recorded this timelapse:
And three views with vessels:
Above, John Hinkey photographed a barge in a sunbreak Tuesday night; below, David Hutchinson noted an outbound cargo ship with the Olympic Mountains as a post-sunset backdrop Friday night:
And Dan Keller caught the fireboat’s show off Alki on Wednesday:
Thanks again to everyone!
Thanks to Kersti Muul for word that there’s a humpback whale in the area, seen in Elliott Bay off Duwamish Head, a few hundred yards out. (If you’re not sure how to ID a humpback, check out this page from The Whale Trail‘s species guide.) Let us know if you see it!
4:10 PM: Thanks to Eli Barlag for the photo. That’s the Ready Reserve Force cargo vessel M/V Cape Hudson, which arrived in Elliott Bay today after sailing up from Tacoma. It’s a 750-foot roll-on/roll-off cargo vessel, 41 years old, based in San Francisco and often chartered for military operations like Pacific Pathways. According to a Maritime Administration social-media post from earlier this year, Cape Hudson is still part of that”mobility exercise, taking on and discharging cargo at domestic and international ports … an annual operational deployment exercise designed to determine the best methods for planning, preparation, execution, and ordering of craft to move troops and equipment.”
ADDED MONDAY MORNING: Without docking in Seattle, Cape Hudson sailed on this morning, currently shown on MarineTraffic.com as northbound in Puget Sound.
2:31 PM: Thanks to everybody who’s been asking about the U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and vessel off west-facing West Seattle. We just talked with the duty officer at USCG District 13 public affairs and he says they don’t have anything search/rescue going on in this area, so as far as he knows, it’s training, which is common on Sundays “to get their hours in” when nothing else is going on.
3:21 PM: Over now. (We went down to see if we could catch a photo, but no luck.)
6:16 PM: Thanks to Jamie Kinney for the video.
Ann Anderson sent the photo and story of a small act of kindness on this sunny Saturday:
Wanted to send out a big thank you to these West Seattle residents who were taking a row off of Duwamish Head early this morning. Their lifeboat was called into action when a photographer dropped her camera into the water off the small pier near Salty’s. After unsuccessfully attempting to get the attention of nearby scuba divers, the lifeboat rowed over and stood by while the photographer (me) jumped in and dove down retrieve the camera from under the pier. It turns out that the familial group – Hayden, Emily and Katherine – were out celebrating not one, but two birthdays today (in a quiet, isolated, C-19-responsible way) when they so kindly assisted a stranger in distress.
From wildlife watchers:
KEEP YOUR DISTANCE: The photo taken earlier this week is from Bob Karnofski, who writes:
A seal pup was resting comfortably at Don Armeci boat launch. Seal Sitters – who I’ve volunteered with – aren’t staffing perimeters at this time, but the dock has barricade tape up as the pup has been here often. I was watching from a distance as a lady and her small child strolled down the dock to get a better look. This frightened the seal pup, who arose and dove into the water. Can you please remind readers that seals are protected and to leave them be and admire from a distance? Thank you. I took this shot with a zoom lens. You can see the pup looking up and getting anxious.
WATERFOWL: It has been a long time since we got photos of Common Loons – and this week we received two! From David Hutchinson, at Lowman Beach:
And from Mark MacDonald, at Lincoln Park:
WHAT THE HERRING LEFT BEHIND: Remember the recent herring-spawning event that drew seals/sea lions and birds off our shores? “Diver Laura” James has sent photos of the eggs on offshore sargassum:
Learn more about herring here.
P.S. More wildlife/bird photos this weekend – along with the rest of the news!)
A baleen whale has been making its way slowly northbound along West Seattle’s west-facing shores. The person who texted us from The Arroyos said it looks like a gray; now it’s off Point Williams in Lincoln Park, where Kersti Muul says that’s just been confirmed. If you’re near, or north of, there, be on the lookout!
Thanks to Don Brubeck (above) and James Tilley (below) for the photos of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) seen off West Seattle as it headed northbound this morning.
James says the larger of those two flags was unfurled while he was photographing the shop. The Bremerton-homeported Nimitz has been back for just over two months. The Kitsap Sun reported last week that the Navy had said its entire crew would be tested for COVID-19 before the carrier’s next departure.
Another amazing sight off West Seattle’s west-facing shores …
That photo by David Hutchinson, and the one below by Matthew Olson, show Bonaparte’s Gulls, not often seen around here, apparently drawn to our section of Puget Sound by the herring-spawning event we noted last weekend.
You can hear them in Robin Sinner‘s video:
We don’t know if these were the same birds, but the waters have drawn flocks for days – Jonny L. sent this sighting from last Saturday’s sunset:
On Sunday, “Diver Laura” James recorded this aerial view of how the spawning changed the water’s color:
As we showed you that day, it was also a big draw for sea lions – Diver Laura photoggraphed them too:
Jamie Kinney shared an aerial view of one as tt swam:
If you walk on the beach sometime soon, watch out for herring eggs – our 2017 story shows them close up.
12:22 PM: Those are just a few of the sea lions hanging out off Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook (4503 Beach Drive SW) this midday, some “sailing” while taking a break from an all-you-can-eat brunch. Birds too:
Consensus so far seems to be that they are feeding on spawning herring.
That would seem to be borne out by the water color difference you can see in this reader-contributed video from Terence:
P.S. Thanks for all the tips on this!
ADDED 4:32 PM: Kersti Muul sends this photo of herring eggs on the shore:
And from Erica Sokoloff, two more Beach Drive sights – first, a tern (those are the birds with the prehistoric-sounding screech); second, a sea lion nosing out of the water:
ADDED LATE SUNDAY: Aerial view from “Diver Laura” James:
We asked Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network‘s David Hutchinson about the phenomenon:
The Hotline has had a number of calls recently about sea lions offshore, with people expressing concern that they were entangled or injured. We encourage people to call and report these sightings to the Seal Sitters Hotline (206-905-7325) so we can keep track of this activity and just in case a sea lion is actually in distress. A couple weeks ago, our contact at WDFW reported there were herring spawn events in the area (Purdy, Indianola, Case Inlet) which are likely attracting those large numbers of sea lions. Most of these animals will be heading out of our area within the next month.
With a U.S. Coast Guard base close by, toward the south end of the downtown waterfront, USCG vessels are often seen off West Seattle, but we don’t always get photos – so thanks for these! Above, Marc Milrod photographed the 378-foot high-endurance cutter USCGC Mellon this morning; below, James Tilley‘s view last week of the U.S.’s only heavy icebreaker, USCGC Polar Star:
Both vessels are homeported here.