West Seattle, Washington
SATURDAY REPORT: Thanks to the texter who reports a humpback whale sighting off Jack Block Park, headed northbound, a while ago. Not sure how to tell what kind of whale you’re looking at? Here’s The Whale Trail‘s page about humpbacks.
ADDED SUNDAY: Thanks to Colin for sharing the photo, added above, via a comment.
2:48 PM: Thanks to Joseph for the heads-up: The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson is in view from west-facing West Seattle right now, headed southbound toward Rich Passage and on to Bremerton. The Vinson (CVN 70) is switching homeports from San Diego to Bremerton, starting with a maintenance period at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
3:10 PM: Added above, a photo just sent by Jim Borrow. He notes the detail that many cars are visible on deck – likely because of the aforementioned relocation.
12:05 PM: Another orca alert from Kersti Muul: Whales have been spotted in the Bainbridge Island ferry lanes, southbound, so are likely to be within view from West Seattle soon. As always, please let us know if you see them!
12:29 PM: An update from Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales – seven to ten orcas, closer to the Bainbridge side but coming into view off Constellation Park south of Alki Point and likely visible from Emma Schmitz Overlook/Me-Kwa-Mooks within half an hour.
ADDED SATURDAY EVENING: Thanks to everyone who provided location updates in comments. Adding a photo sent by Monica Zaborac.
3:01 PM: Earlier today, transient orcas passed West Seattle southbound. Right now, Southern Resident Killer Whales are inbound, north of Elliott Bay and headed this way, according to a tip just in from Kersti Muul. Let us know if you see them!
3:30 PM: Off Beach Drive, according to commenters.
3:56 PM: Mel just tweeted about seeing them from the Southworth ferry.
4:18 PM: Jeff Hogan from Killer Whale Tales just called. He says there are three groups of wildlife out there – the orcas traveling through the Fauntleroy ferry lanes and a humpback with them, a “large group of harbor porpoises” near Lowman Beach, and a bottlenose dolphin off Me-Kwa-Mooks (Emma Schmitz Overlook)!
West Seattle is unique in the Washington State Ferries system as home to the city’s only WSF dock in a residential area (Fauntleroy). So you might be interested in the 2018 ridership report just released:
Thirty-four times the population of the city of Seattle – that’s how many people Washington State Ferries carried in 2018.
Annual ridership on the nation’s largest ferry system increased by more than 225,000 last year to nearly 25 million, its highest level since 2002.
“Our ridership is up 10 percent from five years ago and it’s forecast to grow another 30 percent to all-time highs over the next 20 years,” said WSF Assistant Secretary Amy Scarton. “In order to support this projected demand with reliable service, our recently released 2040 Long Range Plan calls for 16 new vessels by 2040.”
The largest jump in 2018 came on the Southworth/Vashon route, where ridership was up 8.8 percent, or a gain of nearly 17,000 customers over 2017. This is the third year in a row that the biggest percentage increase has been on a route serving Southworth, as people move to more affordable housing in South Kitsap County.
WSF customers took more than 161,000 trips aboard state ferries last year, travelling nearly 1 million miles – enough to circumnavigate the earth 36 times.
2018 route-by-route ridership highlights
· System total: Customers up 0.9 percent from 2017 to 24.7 million, vehicles up 1.1 percent to 10.8 million.
· Seattle/Bainbridge Island and Bremerton: While it remains WSF’s flagship terminal servicing the most customers throughout the system, there was a year-to-year drop of nearly 60,000 total riders (0.6 percent) passing through Colman Dock. Vehicles down 2.3 percent on Bainbridge Island route, up 3 percent for Bremerton.
· Edmonds/Kingston: Second highest total ridership with customers up 2.2 percent. Biggest year-to-year increase in total vehicles, going up nearly 40,000 (1.8 percent).
· Mukilteo/Clinton: Welcomed system’s fourth Olympic class ferry, Suquamish, to the route in the fall. Busiest route for drivers with vehicles up 1.5 percent and customers up 1.7 percent.
· Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth: Customers up 1.4 percent and vehicles up 1.5 percent, led by the Southworth/Vashon segment, which had the largest year-to-year percentage growth with customers up 8.8 percent and vehicles up 6.8 percent.
· Anacortes/San Juan Islands: All-time record ridership with customers up 1.4 percent and vehicles up 1.5 percent.
· Point Defiance/Tahlequah: Customers up 2.9 percent and vehicles up 3.7 percent. Ridership up more than 250,000 from low point in 2008.
· Port Townsend/Coupeville: Customers up 4 percent and vehicles up 3.8 percent. Ten-year ridership increase of more than 350,000.
· Anacortes/Sidney, British Columbia: Slight drop due to a two-week suspension of the route due to vessel breakdowns with customers down 0.7 percent and vehicles down 1.8 percent.
· Route-by-route ridership numbers: Available on the second page of WSF’s Fact Sheet.
· Additional highlights: See more in WSF’s 2018 Year in Review.
Mark Dale sent the photo from Gatewood. He’s one of several people who asked about that sighting this morning – U.S. Coast Guard “response” boats escorting a Fauntleroy-bound ferry. We checked with USCG District 13 public affairs – no incidents, no threats, they told us. So apparently just training.
Again this week, Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network received reports of what someone thought was a marine mammal in distress – but wasn’t. David Hutchinson as a result shares information we’ve published in the past about “a typical behavior of sea lions that causes concerns each year,” known as “sailing.” He sent the photo, too, to help explain:
Every fall and winter, Seal Sitters’ Hotline receives calls from folks out walking West Seattle beaches who are concerned about marine mammals offshore that they feel are in distress or entangled. These reports typically turn out to be California sea lions who are regulating their body temperatures by raising flippers out of the water, referred to as “thermoregulation.”
When a single animal does this, it is called “sailing,” while if a group of sea lions is involved, it is called “rafting.” For more details on this behavior, please see the 2010 story in Seal Sitters’ Blubberblog at this link: “Sailing” sea lion sparks concern.
It is also normal behavior for a resting sea lion to just float and drift on the water’s surface without raised flippers, occasionally lifting the head to take a breath. For more information on California sea lions that visit our area during this time of year, see: About California sea lions.
Each year, marine mammals are killed by entanglement in derelict fishing gear. If you see an animal entangled in visible fishing line or net or with obvious injuries, please report this to our Hotline at 206-905-SEAL (7325).
If you haven’t heard the promising news yet: The endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales that visited central Puget Sound on Thursday had a brand-new visitor with them – as announced by the Center for Whale Research, L-Pod has a new calf, L124, born to 31-year-old L77. This is the third calf known to have been born to L77; the first one died in 2010, same year it was born, and the second one is L119, born in 2012. As CWR somberly points out, many calves don’t survive their first year, so everyone is watching and hoping for the best. The Southern Resident population is now at 75.
1:30 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip! Southern Resident Killer Whales – K-Pod, to be specific – are headed this way, northbound from Burien’s Three Tree Point. They passed here southbound earlier in the day and have now turned around. Please let us know if you see them!
2:01 PM: Another texter says they’re in view from south of Alki Point.
2:54 PM: Turns out there are TWO groups of orcas in the area – southbound transients, northbound residents. And a TV helicopter (according to FlightRadar 24‘s tracker, the one channels 4/5 share) is buzzing them right now off Fauntleroy.
3:16 PM: Thanks for the updates in comments! NB whales are off The Arroyos now.
4:17 PM: As dusk nears, they’re between Fauntleroy and Vashon, per comments as well as a call from Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail.
Thanks for the tips and photos! The sailboats seen off West Seattle late this afternoon are part of the Three Tree Point Yacht Club‘s Duwamish Head Race. Top photo is by Lynn Hall; below, by John Saalwaechter:
This race had 61 registrants, according to the club website.
While at Alki a few minutes ago checking in on the Super Plungers (separate story to come), we noticed the USNS Washington Chambers headed northbound in the Sound.
Thanks to Jim Borrow for the photo of a U.S. Navy submarine seen headed northbound past West Seattle after leaving Bremerton earlier today. We have yet to learn the secrets of IDing submarines, but as noted in this recent Kitsap Sun report about submarine maintenance, Bremerton is homeport to two.
1:38 PM: Thanks for the multiple tips – orcas are headed northbound past West Seattle this afternoon. Kersti Muul says they’re Southern Resident Killer Whales – J-Pod, to be specific. Midchannel past The Arroyos as of about 20 minutes ago, says Alison via Twitter. Let us know if you see them!
P.S. The SRKW were already in the news today because of Gov. Inslee’s budget proposal and its recommendations for helping them. We’re working on a followup.
1:46 PM: Now in the Fauntleroy ferry lanes, per text from Kersti.
2:45 PM: Photos added – thank you! Kersti says the whales were passing Constellation Park as of about half an hour ago.
ADDED THURSDAY NIGHT: The video above is by Greg Snyder, as the whales passed Alki Point.
The Argosy Cruises Christmas Ship returned to West Seattle twice today/tonight – starting just before sunset at Don Armeni Boat Ramp, as seen in David Hutchinson‘s photo above, following an afternoon stop in South Park. After a break and a visit to Bainbridge Island, the Spirit of Seattle made its last West Seattle appearance of 2018, serenading Salty’s on Alki (WSB sponsor):
(WSB video/photos from here on)
The choir Emerald City Voices delivered a set with flashes of humor – as you can hear in our clip, they opened with “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” and before they headed back to the downtown dock, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas“ was among the other songs. We counted 7 boats accompanying the Christmas Ship tonight.
Here’s the schedule for the rest of the season, nightly (and some daytime sailings too) through Christmas Eve-Eve.
7:57 PM: We’re at Lowman Beach, where the Argosy Cruises Christmas Ship has just arrived for its first of four West Seattle stops over two nights. The seasonal serenading, courtesy of on-board singers, will be happening here for about 20 minutes, then on to Alki for an 8:40 pm stop (near the Bathhouse). More to come!
8:17 PM: Great crowd at Lowman.
After a singalong of “Joy to the World,” the Christmas Ship and the 8 boats accompanying it are now Alki-bound.
8:44 PM: The Choir of the Sound is just concluding its first Alki song.
9:05 PM: Sailing back to Pier 55 – but back in West Seattle tomorrow – see our Holiday Guide for the schedule. Photos when we’re back at HQ.
ADDED 10:54 PM: Photos added above and below. As usual, the Alki stop had extra happenings onshore, with Hope Lutheran helping out.
Throughout the holiday season, the Christmas Ship sails around the region with a long list of guest choirs performing Christmas songs.
It’s free to enjoy from shore, or you can buy a ticket to sail on board the Christmas Ship or one of its follow boats – Argosy donates part of the proceeds to charity, as announced during its stops.
10:23 AM: Just heard from Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail that southbound orcas are off Bainbridge Island and headed this way, likely in view from West Seattle shortly. Please let us know if you see them!
11:39 AM: In addition to commenters’ reports, we also got a text of orcas in view from Lowman Beach.
12:41 PM: Updates from Kersti Muul in comments and Donna by phone – the orcas (J Pod) have turned around and are now headed northbound.
2:51 PM: Added a photo sent by Kersti, of her photo taken as a second group of orcas headed NB around 1:30 pm, closer to this side of the Sound.
1:03 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip: Orcas are northbound off south Vashon Island! Let us know if you see them.
3:57 PM: No orca updates but Pia called to let us know about a gray-whale sighting in Elliott Bay!
10:42 AM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the update – orcas are in the area again, headed northbound past the Fauntleroy ferry dock. (On their way to “Welcome the Orcas,” under way at Alki Bathhouse until 2 pm, apparently!) Let us know if you see them.
11:48 AM: Thanks for the updates in comments! Photo added above, from Kersti.
1:30 PM: Thanks to Monica Zaborac for the photos above and below this line, taken while looking toward Vashon.
No recent updates, and those viewing during “Welcome the Orcas“ were looking north from the Alki promenade, so we believe they’re out of view for now – please let us know if that changes!
12:43 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip: Resident orcas are back in the area (just in time for tomorrow’s Welcome the Orcas event!) and headed this way. K Pod members were seen northbound off Normandy Park and are currently resting off Burien’s Three Tree Point, Kersti says. Let us know if you see them!
12:50 PM: Now an update from Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales: They’re back on the move, off The Arroyos, and closer to this side of the Sound, so a good viewing opportunity if you can get to the shore!
1:25 PM: Update from Jeff – they’re now off Lincoln Park, still northbound.
2:05 PM: Visible from Constellation Park, according to updates from Jeff and from Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail (which is co-presenting tomorrow’s event).
4 PM: No further reports, and no remaining pods of whale-watchers in view. Photos added!
The photo is from Deidre, one of a half-dozen people who messaged us about the sea-lion carcass floating off Alki today. We checked with Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network, which confirms this is the most recent of the 13 dead sea lions noted here on Thursday: “Seal Sitters responded yesterday when it rested against the Water Taxi dock. We secured overnight for a visual exam that revealed a suspected gunshot wound. Carcass was too decomposed for necropsy, so we documented with photos and allowed it to drift free.” The most-recent SS update includes numbers for reporting sightings, dead or alive, as well as for contacting investigators with any information on the sea-lion shootings.
Thanks to James Moore for sending the photo, taken around 11 this morning. He reports: “It’s not an orca – but I think it’s a harbor porpoise. It was traveling south just off the Arroyos all by itself and as you can see quite close to shore (they’re usually quite far out and in a group).”
11:09 AM: Thanks for the tips! The orcas are back this morning. Southbound passing Emma Schmitz Overlook, per Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales.
11:18 AM: Kersti Muul says the whales are spread out, north of Blake Island to south.
12:06 PM: In comments, Sydney says they’re now off Lincoln Park. We’ve also added a photo above that Kersti shared from Thursday.
12:53 PM: Per comments, the whales are now northbound.
8:21 AM: Thanks to Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales for the tip: Orcas are southbound in the Fauntleroy ferry lanes right now.
9:32 AM: Still southbound – see comments, with photos including the one we reposted above, from Jsmyth.
4:30 PM: Now northbound, visible from The Arroyos, reports Kersti Muul.