West Seattle, Washington
A little over one year ago, we reported on that University of Washington research vessel’s work off Alki Point, studying methane bubbles seeping from the Seattle Fault. UW oceanography professor Paul Johnson explained the project involving the R/V Rachel Carson, years of work that could someday help predict earthquakes, among other things. He also shared this undersea video showing the bubbles:
This week, the UW announced that research for which Professor Carson was lead author has been published in the January issue of Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems. The UW post also talks about some of what’s happened since our report, and what’s next:
… In follow-up work, scientists used underwater microphones this fall to eavesdrop on the bubbles. Shima Abadi, an associate professor at the University of Washington Bothell, is analyzing the sound that bubbles make when they are emitted. The team also hopes to go back to Alki Point with a remotely operated vehicle that could place instruments inside a vent hole to fully analyze the emerging fluid and gas. …
The area off Alki Point is not the only methane-bubble site they’re studying – others in the region include an area off Kingston. Among the mysteries they have yet to solve is the source of the methane.
At the end of a socked-in day, we learned that somewhere in the fog, an aircraft carrier passed by … for the last time. The USS Kitty Hawk has been mothballed in Bremerton for more than a decade, and was towed away today, headed to be scrapped in Texas, as the Kitsap Sun‘s Josh Farley reports. We don’t have a photo of its passage in the fog today, but here’s a pic we published (courtesy of reader Gary) the day it arrived in Bremerton in September 2008:
Meantime, also on the water between here and Bremerton this murky day, a submarine:
We received that photo from Kelley Leigh, who was on a state ferry headed for downtown Seattle that passed the submarine arriving in Bremerton just before 3 pm today.
James Borrow, who often shares photos of interesting offshore sights, photographed that boat off Alki on Tuesday. We asked the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife what kind of research its crew was doing. Here’s what WDFW’s Chase Gunnell found out for us: “Our understanding is that boat is contracted by the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe to do test fishing (also known as catch sampling) for Puget Sound winter Chinook (also known as blackmouth) and other salmon in coordination with WDFW during the ongoing Marine Area 10 winter salmon season.” That season opened on New Year’s Day and is scheduled to run through the end of March, allowing fishing on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays, with a daily limit of one salmon. Gunnell says WDFW has its own boat out test-fishing those three days, as well, and has staff doing spot checks at area boat ramps including Don Armeni – here are the charts of what they’ve found.
SIDE NOTE: This past weekend, we learned from Gunnell, some of the people fishing off West Seattle were participating in the annual Tengu Blackmouth Derby – a derby with an 85-year history. Here’s the story.
12:19 PM: Great day to be on the water, with this break in the weather after all the storminess these past two weeks! Thanks to everyone who texted/emailed about the passing sailboats – the photo above is by David Hutchinson. This is the Three Tree Point Yacht Club‘s Duwamish Head Race. 48 boats are listed as registered; race results will be here later.
12:43 PM: Thanks to Gary Jones for more photos:
MSC Monterey arrived today at Terminal 5 in West Seattle, the first international-cargo ship to call there since July 2014. The expansive terminal hasn’t been idle all those years – it’s seen controversy with oil-drilling rigs as well as more-routine use such as domestic cargo via Matson – but the biggest activity has been the first phase of the half-billion-dollar “modernization” project. Now that phase of work is done and the first berth is in service. The Northwest Seaport Alliance invited news media onto the dock this morning for a quick (and soggy) look.
Two of Terminal 5’s giant cranes – which arrived last June – are being used to unload MSC Monterey; terminal operator SSA Marine‘s T-5 manager Dana Brand explained the other two aren’t in use because the carrier wants to stay a few days, rather than a quick in-and-out. This ship isn’t utilizing all of the newly opened berth’s capacity in other ways, either – for one, it’s a 6,500-TEU (container equivalent) capacity ship; a much-bigger and newer ship – MSC Virgo, 15,000 TEUs – will be here in a few weeks. That ship will use shore power, unlike this one. Also of note, this ship’s containers are all going out by truck, not by rail, though the latter will be used later this month.
Trucks move quickly through an automated gate – potentially seconds for what used to take minutes, including the efficiency of a central control for all three active Seattle terminals – 5, 18, and 30. And the second phase of T-5 work includes moving the gate complex further into the terminal, so there’s more on-dock room for queueing, taking pressure off the roads leading in. For even more efficiency, negotiations are under way toward direct ship-to-train offloading – that would require ships to be loaded in a way that groups all the containers set for a particular destination, which isn’t the way it works now.
Today’s mini-tour included key maritime-industry reps made available for media interviews. We asked Rich Austin, president of ILWU Local 19, what T-5’s opening means for his union’s local workforce, which had dozens of people working at T-5 today.
Terminal 5 now has a second berth to be modernized, and SSA has to decide whether to lease that one too. We talked with SSA Marine executive Edward DeNike and NWSA CEO John Wolfe about what’s next:
Terminal 5’s opening will take some pressure off the supply-chain backlog, DeNike acknowledged, though right now the maritime backup isn’t too bad around here – DeNike said three ships are waiting in this area, compared to more than 140 in Southern California. Prior to the berth opening, T-5 has been in use for months as extra container storage; the number of extra containers there is now down to 3,000, from a peak of 11,000.
Thanks to the texter who sent the photo. We’ve received a few questions about what that crane is doing alongside the Fauntleroy ferry dock. First – no, this is not related to the ongoing planning for future replacement of the dock. The crane is from Pacific Pile & Marine, doing “routine maintenance” on the dock, Washington State Ferries tells us. It’s happening a bit later than originally scheduled because of the weather and should last a few days. The WSF maintenance-updates page notes that the terminal has been scheduled for counterweight-cable replacement.
P.S. If you missed last night’s first session of WSF’s winter community meetings, you have a second chance – 1 pm next Tuesday (January 11th); the registration link is here.
Thanks to Stewart L. for excellent photos of an offshore sight often mistaken for an orca – “sailing” sea lion(s). He photographed these earlier this week, “relaxing in style along the fence line just north of Don Armeni mid-morning. Very close to the shore because of the super high tide, which makes getting photos easier.”
We’ve featured this before, but seldom with this close of a view. As explained by David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network in this WSB report from 2019, sea lions raise their flippers to regulate their body temperature.
But if you do think you’re seeing wildlife in distress, not something normal like this, SSMSN is at 206-905-SEAL
For the second consecutive day, water-watchers in west-facing West Seattle saw an inbound submarine – and this time, it was the damaged USS Connecticut (SSN 22), on its way to Bremerton for repairs, 2 1/2 months after hitting an undersea mountain. Thanks to James Borrow for the photo! Here are arrival details from The Kitsap Sun‘s Josh Farley.
11:02 AM: Thanks to Tom for the photo. He and others have tipped us that a submarine is currently stopped off Manchester, across the water from West Seattle. So far there’s speculation thst it’s the damaged USS Connecticut, which was seen at Indian Island yesterday, after leaving San Diego on Wednesday. After colliding with an undersea mountain in October, the Connecticut underwent preliminary repairs in Guam. We’re checking with the Navy to see if they’ll confirm this is the submarine off Manchester.
12:25 PM: We haven’t heard back from the Navy but the report on The War Zone, linked above, was updated a short time ago with a Navy statement saying the Connecticut is still at Indian Island, so this may be another submarine (commenter Ethan suggests the USS Ohio) instead. Here’s another photo – this one’s from Carrie:
2:57 PM: Just heard from Lt. Cmdr. Ben Anderson, who confirms that the submarine seen off Manchester is indeed USS Ohio, not USS Connecticut: “Ohio-class guided missile submarine USS Ohio (SSGN 726) returned to its homeport of Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton today, following a scheduled patrol in the Indo-Pacific.”
11:30 AM: Thanks to Marc Milrod for the photo, noticing that the state ferry M/V Cathlamet, usually on the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth route, was instead being escorted into Elliott Bay this morning. The Triangle Route still has two boats, but the second one right now is M/V Chimacum. Washington State Ferries spokesperson Ian Sterling tells WSB, “Cathlamet is headed into Vigor for maintenance. Sealth has been at Vigor for its maintenance and will go back on the route tomorrow, I believe. In the meantime, the Chimacum is pinch hitting on the route to cover the gap. A bit of boat ballet, but all planned to ensure service is maintained on the route.” That actually temporarily adds a bit more vehicle capacity, as Chimacum carries up to 144 vehicles, while Cathlamet maxes out at 124. The 40-year-old Cathlamet had trouble earlier in the year, with a smoky clutch problem that led to an emergency response in July.
2:30 PM: We asked what the maintenance will involve. Sterling’s reply:
the scope of work is similar to what we just did on Sealth:
Vehicle deck steel renewals
Fire main and sprinkle piping renewals
Navigation deck non skid
Change out propeller hub assembly
10:07 AM: If you can take a break for some Wednesday whale-watching, we just heard from Kersti Muul that a group of whales had been seen heading southbound through the Seattle/Bainbridge Island ferry lanes, so they should be visible from West Seattle soon if they’re not already, Let us know if you see them!
11:22 AM: In addition to Kersti’s updates in comments, we’ve also heard from Patrick via email, “Two orcas behind the ferry Cathlamet. Looks like they are fishing but they did a full breach. South of Brace Point. Heading South.”
12:12 PM: We’re getting multiple reports today about this, so in case you see it too: What looks to some like a “dead baby orca” is actually a dead sea lion, likely the same one that’s been seen on and offshore for a few days now. Kersti Muul gave us first heads-up about it yesterday. The decomposed carcass appears to have a light patch, so that’s why some have mistaken it for an orca. If it washes onshore again, it can be marked with paint, and “hopefully scanned,” Kersti says. If it washes ashore in West Seattle, the Marine Mammal Stranding Network here is Seal Sitters, 206-905-SEAL; in other areas, the regional hotline is 866-767-6114.
4:28 PM: As Kersti noted in comments below, there’s a live sea lion on the Harbor Avenue shore, too – a Steller sea lion, not as common in our area. Stewart L. sent this photo while it was back out in the water:
When we reported on Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas lingering in the area a month ago, the Port of Seattle told us it would be back. And today, it is (thanks for the tips), anchored at what’s known as Yukon Harbor, off Manchester, north of Blake Island. After the Alaska cruising season, it was originally scheduled to cruise Australia this winter, but the pandemic canceled that. The port told us it’s scheduled to spend some time in December docked at Pier 66 downtown. The ship isn’t currently scheduled for anything before the next Alaska cruising season opens in May.
After a pandemic off-year, the Argosy Cruises Christmas Ship set sail again tonight – and its first stop was West Seattle, where a crowd lined the shore at Don Armeni Boat Ramp
They heard The Dickens Carolers sing holiday classics from on board – we recorded part of their 20-minute performance:
As listed in the WSB West Seattle Holiday Guide, the Christmas Ship will make two more West Seattle stops, both tomorrow night – 5:35 pm outside Salty’s on Alki (1936 Harbor Avenue SW; WSB sponsor), and 8:35 pm at Alki Beach Park, near the Bathhouse (60th/Alki), with a bonfire planned. That’s it for WS stops this year but you can see the entire season’s schedule here.
We’ve received a few tips/questions about a foot ferry stopped off Alki. That’s the Kitsap Transit vessel Enetai. We contacted KT; spokesperson Sanjay Bhatt says it’s “rendering aid to a disabled vessel.” (No details on that other vessel, which isn’t showing on MarineTraffic.com.)
Thanks to everyone who sent photos! The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) headed out of Bremerton this morning for the first time since March; it’s been undergoing maintenance since then. This isn’t a departure for deployment, according to Josh Farley of the Kitsap Sun – just preparation.
Thanks to Gary Jones for sending the photo from Alki Point this murky afternoon. The cruise ship Ovation of the Seas is headed out again (but as we reported over the weekend, it’ll be back). The fishing boats, meantime, are purse seiners making their almost-annual appearance – this area is open to this kind of salmon fishing until 6 pm today. Jim Borrow says it’s been a busy day, sending this photo from the same area:
Jim wrote, “Mid-morning I counted 7 to 9 fishing boats off Bainbridge Is. and Alki, including the one very close to the shore in the near foreground and the one in the distance in this photo.”
In today’s bright sunlight, the cruise ship anchored off Manchester – Ovation of the Seas – was particularly eye-catching from west-facing West Seattle. As we’ve reported previously, after concluding the Alaska cruise season, it was supposed to head to the Southern Hemisphere for an Australia cruise season, but that was canceled due to COVID-related travel restrictions. So it’s been hanging around in Washington waters. Port of Seattle spokesperson Peter McGraw sent an update at week’s end:
Royal Caribbean International’s the Ovation of Seas will continue to spend more time around Puget Sound in the coming winter months under minimal operations. Currently, she is anchored in Yukon Harbor in Kitsap County, where the U.S. Coast Guard determines the berthing locations. She’ll spend approximately one week at anchor before heading out to coastal and international waters. She’ll then return to Pier 66 for the day on Friday, Nov. 12 for provisioning, bunkering, and crew movements. Then it’s back to Yukon Harbor and other movements out to sea before coming back to Pier 66 on Monday, Dec. 13 for more operations during the day. While in our waters, Ovation of the Seas utilizes marine gas oil (MGO), a low-sulfur fuel. In between these locations, it will be very possible to continue to see the Ovation of the Seas throughout our area.
It’s more common to see cargo ships at anchor where the cruise ship is now; we reported on the ongoing cargo backup earlier this week.
3:46 PM: Two days ago, the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Ovation of the Seas moved from Pier 90 at the Port of Seattle‘s Smith Cove terminal and dropped anchor in the middle of Elliott Bay. Earlier this year, cruise ships were at anchor when all the docks were full. Right now, that’s not the case. So we’ve received a few questions. The ship’s future schedule appears to be in flux; its Australia cruise season for 2021-2022 was recently canceled because travel restrictions Down Under remain tight. As for its continued stay in Seattle, we asked Port of Seattle spokesperson Peter McGraw, who says, “It will be hanging around in the near future, after our last passenger cruise vessel NCL Encore departs on Saturday afternoon. It may be conducting operations around the Sound or even berthed at Pier 66.” (That’s the cruise-ship dock on the downtown waterfront.) It had to leave Pier 91 because the space was needed for other vessels: “When we need our facilities for other tenants, like fishing vessels back from Alaska or other needs outside the cruise season, they have to go elsewhere until there’s an opening, like at 66 later next week.”
7:10 PM: Since we photographed it at mid-afternoon, the ship has in fact headed out on “operations around the Sound” – MarineTraffic.com shows it off Whidbey Island right now, northbound.
Thanks to Danny McMillin for the photo! A sailboat appears to have gotten a close-up look at this submarine as it passed between West Seattle and Bainbridge Island a few hours ago. MarineTraffic.com doesn’t identify the sub beyond “U.S. Warship” but shows that it is still northbound right now, off Whidbey Island.
Thanks to Jim Borrow for sending the photo! That’s the Galloway Express, seen off West Seattle a few hours ago, headed southbound to Olympia. It’s a livestock carrier, built in China for the Dutch shipping company Vroon. (For our fellow maritime geeks, here are its specs.) According to MarineTraffic.com, the Galloway Express’s last port of call was Oita, Japan, which is known for, among other things, Wagyu beef. But Olympia also has exported cattle, too; we’re checking with the port to see if they have details on this voyage.
Thanks to Doug Eglington for the photo. A few people mentioned the odd sight at Don Armeni Boat Ramp over the weekend – an overturned. boat right at the launch. All we could determine was that there was no emergency response logged in connection with it. One texter said they’d reported it to the Harbor Patrol, but Sunday it was still there. Then today the tow truck showed up. We checked with SPD; no report written, but they did note that officers on Saturday “notified the registered owner of the boat that it could be impounded.”
Thanks to David Hutchinson for the photo. The small cruise ship American Constellation sailed into Elliott Bay today. It carries up to 175 passengers – a tiny fraction of the other ships that sail from/to Seattle. The ship is scheduled to sail out of Seattle tomorrow on a 10-night “Grand Puget Sound Cruise” (see the itinerary here). Four other sailings from Seattle are on its schedule in October and November.