Photographs capture humpback whale’s Seattle visit, breaching in waters in front of Space Needle

Dec 4, 2023, 5:42 PM

Seattle (AP) — Pictures released by a conservation group show a young humpback whale breaching in front of the Space Needle as it visited the waters off Seattle last week, capturing a rare display of wildlife next to a major city.

The photos were also used to gauge the general health of the whale and create a serial identification number that will help researchers keep track of the young marine mammal.

This young whale, which is estimated to be about two years old, now has the designation of CRC-20899, according to Cascadia Research Collective.

The photos were taken by Jeff Hogan, co-coordinator of the Seattle-branch of Soundwatch Boater Education Program. Hogan shadowed the whale for most of its time in the bay to alert other vessels to it. Hogan said the whale looked healthy and watched it breach nearly 30 times.

Soundwatch has been operating off the San Juan Islands, where orcas are commonly found, for more than 30 years. The Seattle wing of the program debuted this past August with the aim to protect whales in busy Elliott Bay. Program personnel inform vessels of nearby whales so that enough space is given to the giant creatures. On any given day, car and pedestrian ferries, tugboats, private crafts, container ships and other vessels crisscross the bay.

“It not only was a beautiful day and experience, it was a great opportunity to collaborate with all operators out there,” said Alanna Frayne, a coordinator for Soundwatch. “This humpback provided education.”

Local whale watching groups have identified the young humpback as the calf of an adult female with the identification BCY0995, better known as “Smiley.”

Smiley’s last calf, Chip, was fatally struck by a Washington state ferry in 2020, according to the Canadian group Vancouver Island Whale Watch.

As the whale’s population numbers rebound, visits to the Seattle metropolitan area by orcas that prey on mammals and cetacean whales like humpbacks and grays have been increasing.

Humpback whales visit the waters off Seattle as they migrate along the West Coast. Before the commercial whaling industry nearly drove them to extinction, researchers think the Puget Sound was used as a nursery by humpbacks.

The young calf was seen until Friday morning, Frayne said. Soundwatch boat followed it as the whale headed north and away from the city.

AP (New)

Associated Press

Seattle police officer who struck and killed graduate student from India won’t face felony charges

SEATTLE (AP) — Prosecutors in Washington state said Wednesday they will not file felony charges against a Seattle police officer who struck and killed a graduate student from India while responding to an overdose call — a case that attracted widespread attention after another officer was recorded making callous remarks about it. Officer Kevin Dave […]

3 days ago

FILE - The logo for Boeing appears on a screen above a trading post on the floor of the New York St...

Associated Press

Boeing ousts head of 737 jetliner program weeks after panel blowout on a flight over Oregon

SEATTLE (AP) — Boeing said Wednesday that the head of its 737 program is leaving the company in an executive shake-up weeks after a door panel blew out on a flight over Oregon, renewing questions about safety at the company. Boeing announced the departure of Ed Clark, who had been with the company for 18 […]

3 days ago

FILE - An orca swims past a recreational boat sailing just offshore in the Salish Sea in the San Ju...

Associated Press

To keep whales safe, Coast Guard launches boat alert system in Seattle

SEATTLE (AP) — Photographer Matt McDonald had lived on Puget Sound for years, but had never seen a whale, so he was elated when he spotted a giant marine mammal just off Seattle’s waterfront one evening. The excitement was short-lived. As McDonald tracked the whale in his camera’s viewfinder, a state ferry that dwarfed the […]

4 days ago

Associated Press

Cyclist in Washington state sustains injuries after a cougar ‘latched onto’ her

SEATTLE (AP) — A woman suffered injuries to her face and neck after a cougar leapt out and “latched onto” her while she was cycling with a group on a trail in Washington state, authorities said. The incident happened Saturday on a trail northeast of Fall City, a community about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east […]

5 days ago

Evelyn Jefferson, a crisis outreach supervisor for Lummi Nation, stands at the grave of her son Pat...

Associated Press

Tribes in Washington are battling a devastating opioid crisis. Will a multimillion-dollar bill help?

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — Evelyn Jefferson walks deep into a forest dotted with the tents of unhoused Lummi Nation tribal members and calls out names. When someone appears, she and a nurse hand out the opioid overdose reversal medication Naloxone. Jefferson, a tribal member herself, knows how critical these kits are: Just five months ago, […]

9 days ago

super bowl parade...

Associated Press

Things to know about the shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl celebration

Gunfire erupted at the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl celebration Wednesday, leaving one woman dead and more than 20 people injured, including children.

9 days ago

Photographs capture humpback whale’s Seattle visit, breaching in waters in front of Space Needle