West Seattle, Washington
3:12 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch for the tip: Orcas are in view from West Seattle right now! They’re visible from Constellation Park, east of mid-channel, Kersti says, southbound, passing Blake Island. Let us know if you see them.
3:29 PM: Update from Kersti – they’re “just hanging” off Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook (across from Me-Kwa-Mooks – she says they’re transients so they may well be hunting (transients eat other marine mammals, unlike resident orcas, who focus on fish).
4:22 PM: Among those who’ve seen them, Mike Jensen:
— Mike Jensen (@mjtwit) January 14, 2021
ADDED THURSDAY NIGHT: Along with the photos in comments, here’s another one – from Kersti:
THURSDAY: If you’re out along the shore, be on the lookout for Laurie‘s neighbor’s floating dock. She sent the request for help:
During the big windstorm two nights ago, a little floating sea-life dock broke loose and floated away. It’s approximately 8×8 and has the letters “ADM C” on it. We’ve checked up and down Beach Drive to no avail and it’s possible it headed north around Alki (based on wind direction). If anyone sees it, please call Howard at 206-579-5316 and he will come retrieve it.
SATURDAY UPDATE; See comments – it’s been found! Thanks to everyone who looked.
The overnight windstorm stole the spotlight from this morning’s “king tide,” but tomorrow’s a rerun – 12.8 feet at 6:40 am. No “coastal flood advisory” alert this time, though, as the weather has calmed down – tomorrow midday is likely to look like this:
A mostly sunny Thursday is predicted, high around 50, maybe some light rain tomorrow night, but tonight is expected to stay dry.
2:28 PM: Thanks to Carol for the photo, and to Brooke and Jeannie for sending notes at about the same time, after noticing more than a few sailboats off West Seattle. This is the Three Tree Point Yacht Club‘s Duwamish Head Race, from Des Moines to Duwamish Head to Blakely Rock and back to Des Moines. It’s part of the 2020-2021 Southern Sound Series. The race roster lists 51 entries.
ADDED 7:15 PM: More photos! This one’s from Jerry Simmons:
From David Hutchinson:
And from Lynn Hall:
Elliott Bay is a little cleaner and safer tonight thanks to the “Great Battery Roundup.” Above and below are the video and report shared by “Diver Laura” James as her project continued:
We showed up, we dove, we got the lead out!!!
Dive 4 of the Great Battery Roundup 2021 was a brilliant success; we were able to fully remove 8 derelict batteries from the wreckage of the “Honeybear” at a very popular dive site (near Seacrest).
These batteries were found in the hull of the wreckage, as time and tide had finally eroded away the body of the vessel, leaving only hull remnants and debris field. Upon inspection of the debris field, we could readily make out the ‘power banks’ for the vessel, 6 (turned out to be 8) large marine batteries, mostly hidden under a rotten deck hatch.
Dive 1, we removed the deck hatch and exposed the remaining unseen batteries.
Dive 2, we tested a battery run to shallow water
Dive 3, we moved ALL the batteries we could find currently from the debris of the wreckage and moved them into the ‘freshwater lens’ area (up where the water would be less salty from the influx of river water) to encourage any squatters that the batteries are no longer reputable living quarters, and move on.
Dive 4 was delayed slightly by some excessively snotty weather, but when the storm cleared up, our endeavors were greeted by a brilliant blue sky and calm waters. We were able to remove all the batteries liberated from the wreckage! Batteries ranged in weight from 40 lbs to >65.
We ran out of time to get them to Seattle Iron and Metal Corp, so will be taking them in for recycling tomorrow but I’m so thrilled that we were able to remove them with minimal fuss and a bit of elbow grease. Huge thanks to everyone who made this possible!
We have at least one more VERY large marine battery to remove but it’s buried pretty deep in the sediment directly out from the riprap wall in about 20′ deep water, so it will take some excavation. Volunteers are welcome, both shore support and underwater (but you have to be certified and comfortable diving in our chilly emerald sea).
Donations for the project can be made to Sustainable West Seattle.
This week, “Diver Laura” James has been taking us along on an underwater cleanup odyssey off Seacrest, her continuation of the “Great Battery Roundup,” a project begun nine years ago. Her video above and report below chronicle how things went on this New Year’s Day:
What better way to start off the New Year than doing some good for our shared oceans! I can’t thank my dive buddies enough for coming out and sharing this dive!
We were able to remove not 6 but 8 batteries from the debris of the Honeybear wreckage in cove 2. All 8 are now up in the freshwater lens intertidal zone in preparation to be moved up into the shallow shallows on one of our king tides and then removed from the water and taken to West Seattle business Seattle Iron and Metals Corporation’s recycling facility.
Looking at the tides, we should be able to manage that over the next few days. If you dive cove 2 in the meantime, yes, there is a herd of batteries on the far side of the cove at the base of the riprap.
Huge thanks to Lamont Granquist for his epic camera skills and Michael McGoldrick for his excellent lighting! (and the intrepid sea lion who joined us)
Donations for the project can be made through Sustainable West Seattle.
One day earlier this month, a reader asked us about that University of Washington research vessel, R/V Rachel Carson, lingering off West Seattle for hours. That set us on a research quest of our own, learning that the Carson was there for earthquake-related research. The work, UW oceanography professor Paul Johnson tells WSB, has been under way for about three years and involves methane bubbles that seep from the Seattle Fault beneath Puget Sound off Alki Point. The work could someday help with earthquake prediction. We asked for details in hopes of writing a story – and Professor Johnson provided the words and images in the format you see below, which tells the story quite well without much intervention from us – scroll on:
10:53 AM: Thanks to Kersti Muul from Salish Wildlife Watch for the tip – orcas are in view from Alki, at least four, southbound toward the west side of the Sound. Let us know if you see them!
11:04 AM: They’re moving fast – Kersti says they’re now off Blake Island.
12:37 PM: Now passing the south end of Lincoln Park, per Kersti, who says these are transient orcas, not residents.
2:16 PM: Another update from Kersti – residents are in the area too!
12:39 PM: You may have another chance to see Southern Resident Killer Whales from the West Seattle shore today. Both Kersti Muul from Salish Wildlife Watch and Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail tell us orcas from J-Pod and K-Pod – two of the three resident groups – are headed southbound in this direction, still a bit north of Elliott Bay. Let us know if you see them!
1:23 PM: See comments for updates; Kersti reports some turned into Elliott Bay.
1:54 PM: Donna called to say the whales are now visible from Constellation Park (south of Alki Point), back southbound in the Sound, but “bring your binoculars.”
3 PM: Kersti’s update in comments – with photos – says some were visible without binoculars.
Meantime, Sasha tweeted this video:
Just saw some at Linkin Park! pic.twitter.com/HyE3cYoTWM
— Sasha (@essrez) December 6, 2020
5:46 PM: Thanks to everyone who’s since sent photos!
(Photo by Jamie Kinney, who has more here)
Orcas are in the area again today. About an hour ago, whales were spotted in the Bainbridge ferry lanes, southbound, according to Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch, so if you’re by the water any time today, be on the lookout. She says the whales that passed by yesterday were transients, not residents.
Thanks to Stewart L. for the photos! We mentioned back in October that the heavy icebreaker USCGC Polar Star would be heading to the Arctic – and today, it departed. As the Coast Guard noted in October, Polar Star usually goes to Antarctica to resupply McMurdo Station, but a “limited resupply” was planned by air this year instead “due to COVID safety precautions.” In the Arctic, the USCG says, the 44-year-old Polar Star will “help protect the nation’s maritime sovereignty and security.”
P.S. Stewart L. also shared this photo of other Coast Guard work in Elliott Bay today – as Aids to Navigation boat 55107 visited the navigational marker off Luna/Anchor Park:
Thanks to Stewart L. for the photo! That submarine was in view off West Seattle, northbound in Puget Sound, a little over an hour ago. While MarineTraffic.com doesn’t ID it beyond “submarine/military ops,” the tracker does show that it’s continuing that way, off south Snohomish County’s shore at last check.
9:57 AM: For the second day in a row, you have a chance to see orcas off West Seattle – Kersti Muul from Salish Wildlife Watch says whales are southbound, south of the Bainbridge-Seattle ferry lanes. Let us know if you see them!
10:32 AM: In addition to the updates in comments (thank you!), Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail called to say they’re between Blake and Vashon, visible through binoculars.
12:36 PM: Southern Resident Killer Whales are back in our area! Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch reports J-Pod whales are southbound, visible from Alki right now, closer to the Bainbridge Island side of the Sound, so definitely binoculars are needed. Let us know if you see them!
1:24 PM: Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail says they’re visible off Alki Point, and if you need a point of reference, researcher Mark Sears has his boat out nearby.
2:32 PM: See comments for updates. Reported off Lowman Beach as of a short time ago.
11:13 AM: Two groups of orcas are heading in our direction, from opposite directions, according to Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch: Transient orcas are northbound, passing Three Tree Point a little while ago, while Southern Resident Killer Whales from J-Pod are reported to be southbound, off mid-Bainbridge Island at last report. Let us know if you see any of them.
12:15 PM: See comments for updates – thanks to everyone providing them!
Today began with a plane making an emergency landing – and included, it turns out, a cargo ship passing West Seattle on the way to emergency repairs. The photo and tip are from Duncan, who saw the ONE Aquila passing Alki Point this morning; this report says it was diverted into Puget Sound while sailing from China to Long Beach, after some of its containers collapsed in stormy weather. The report says it’ll spend at least two weeks in Tacoma for “an emergency survey, repairs and discharge of the collapsed containers.” A customer advisory says it’s then expected to sail to Long Beach, arriving around Thanksgiving.
7:46 AM: Thanks to Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch for the tip: Orcas are passing West Seattle, southbound off Blake Island.
10:39 AM: Kersti reports in a comment below that the whales (Southern Residents from J-Pod) have turned back northbound.
Thanks to Monica Cavagnaro for the photo. That’s the icebreaker USCGC Polar Star (WAGB 10), in Elliott Bay today. It’s based in Seattle so it’s not an unusual sighting, but soon it will be off on an unusual deployment – headed to the Arctic, the first Polar-class icebreaker to go there in 26 years, reports Military.com. The Coast Guard‘s announcement says the 399-foot Polar Star will head to the Arctic this winter “to help protect the nation’s maritime sovereignty and security in the region.” It usually goes to the Antarctic, but that’s not happening this year, as explained by the announcement:
Typically, the Polar Star travels to Antarctica each year in support of Operation Deep Freeze, the annual military mission to resupply the United States’ Antarctic stations, in support of the National Science Foundation.
This year’s maritime resupply at McMurdo Station was cancelled due to COVID safety precautions, and a limited resupply will be conducted via aircraft. However, Operation Deep Freeze is an enduring mission that requires a heavy icebreaker for a full resupply, and the Coast Guard anticipates resuming this critical deployment next year.
The 44-year-old Polar Star is currently the U.S.’s only heavy icebreaker. A new one is in design and due for completion in 2024.
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.