Southern resident orcas swim by West Seattle, giving residents a show

SEATTLE -- It was a sight to see in the Puget Sound today and dozens of people rushed to the shores of West Seattle hoping for a peek. The endangered southern resident orcas were spotted swimming from Bainbridge Island down to Vashon Island.

With each tail flap, breach and cartwheel, people with faces pressed up to binoculars squealed, oohed and aahed at the sight of the spectacular species.

Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail brought a bag of binoculars for empty-handed passersby. But a lot of people came prepared after seeing social media posts announcing the whales' arrival.

Though far away, the distance -- and the rain -- didn't damper the experience.

"A lot of people saw their first whales today and it was as exciting to them as seeing the whales right in front of them," Sandstrom said.

Terri Szulinski lives close by and rushes to the shore anytime she sees a post announcing the orcas' presence near West Seattle.

"It's exciting!" she said. "We feel so lucky to live in a place with this natural phenomenon and the beauty of the whales."

Sharing a home with the southern resident orcas, we're faced with a spectacular yet struggling species.

"The first thing that happens when we see the whales here is we're reminded what we're fighting for and what's at stake," Sandstrom said. She served on the governor's orca task force last year, which identified ways to mitigate threats to the endangered orcas.

For the youngest viewers to the more seasoned experts, the spectacle is equally captivating.

"It never gets old," Michelle Savoie said. "I could see them 100 times and I'll still be excited."