Great White Shark Katharine Tracked Approaching Florida After Nearly 29,000-Mile Journey

Great White Shark Katharine tagged by tracking group OCEARCH in August 2013, pinged between Daytona Beach and Palm Coast, Florida, at 7:01 a.m. Wednesday, May 25, 2016. Records indicate that the over 14-foot shark has traveled nearly 29,000 miles since being tagged.

The great white shark’s transmitter “pinged” in offshore waters east of Norfolk-Virginia Beach in mid-March 2016. Katharine has been swimming southward since then, reaching South Carolina by mid-April. On Sunday, Katharine pinged near the Florida-Georgia border. By 7:01 a.m. Wednesday, her ping came between Daytona Beach and Palm Coast.

According to 10 News, OCEARCH founder Chris Fischer explained Katharine the great white shark’s progress. Fischer factored in biological change.

“The first two years of her track, (she was) looking like an immature animal. And then this past year, she did not return to Cape Cod. So we’re wondering if we’re actually witnessing her transition from an immature shark to a mature shark — and wondering if she could be pregnant.”

Great white getting tracker installed
Researchers installing a tracker on a great white [Photo by AP Pool]
A Fox 35 report flashbacked to August 2013 when OCEARCH researchers captured the female great white off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and attached a transmitter to her dorsal fin. At that time, shark Katharine was already a massive 14 feet, 2 inches long, weighing 2,300 pounds.

A year later, she earned the distinction of being OCEARCH’s first Atlantic great white shark to migrate past the Florida Keys into the Gulf of Mexico. Fast forward to today and satellite data shows the distance covered by Katharine since being tagged – nearly 29,000 miles.

After reaching the Gulf of Mexico, she returned to Cape Cod, a suspected great white shark breeding ground. Fischer expressed her opinion that Katharine’s movements could not be predicted, despite available data and instrumentation.

“I have no idea where she’s going right now. It’ll be interesting to me to see if she returns to Cape Cod this fall, which would repeat the 2-year migratory cycle we’ve seen of mature females that have given birth in other areas of the world. She’s an interesting shark, for sure.”

Tracker device
Tracker device used on Katharine the great white shark [Photo by AP Pool]
According to Live Science, the average great white shark is the world’s largest predatory fish recognizable by its gray skin, white belly, bullet-shaped body and up to 300 serrated, triangular teeth. Like Katharine, this creature can achieve a length of 20 feet or more and can weigh over 5,000 pounds. The great white is not the biggest shark, however, the non-predatory whale shark being the biggest.

According to USA Today, OCEARCH researchers are following the movements of some 20 sharks in the Atlantic and more globally. Their great white shark Katharine was named in honor of Katharine Lee Bates, a Cape Cod native and songwriter known for her poem and song “America The Beautiful”.

The scientific real-time tracking of the great white shark Katharine has unveiled the little-known travel habits of her kind. The creature’s inclination to go south is characterized by a swim much faster and more random than imagined. Her breed of shark is capable of quick bursts of speed, at roughly 30 miles per hour. While the great white is known to migrate to the Southeast in late fall and early winter, where it goes over the long term or what it does is still a mystery.

Tracking the great white shark is not intended for shark warnings, but rather to study where Katharine and her kind go and for what reason. The result is a raised awareness of the great white’s plight worldwide.

Scientists also say that a great white shark like Katharine should not cause panic because no great white attack has been a documented off Florida. Other mammals like the endangered North Atlantic right whales, however, are not safe from shark attack.

Newborn calves of whales, as well as porpoises and dolphins in the near-shore areas, are typical prey for the great white shark Katharine.

[Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]

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