Great White Shark Unama'ki Heads Even Further Into Deep Ocean and Scientists Aren't Sure Why

A female great white shark being tracked by marine research non-profit OCEARCH is heading even deeper into the Atlantic, satellite data suggests.

The shark, which they have named Unama'ki, measures 15 foot, five inches in length and weighs more than 2,000 pounds.

Readings from the shark's tracking device indicate that the shark is swimming further into the mid-Atlantic, after having passed the island of Bermuda. It left waters off the U.S. east coast at the start of April, and has been heading further into the open ocean ever since.

This path is unusual for great whites, with just a handful of these journeys being recorded with OCEARCH's satellite tracking in the past. Why Unama'ki is heading out to sea is not known, although researchers believe it could mean she is pregnant.

"Wow look at this! It still doesn't look like white shark Unama'ki has any intention of heading back to the coast any time soon. After buzzing out and paying a quick visit to Bermuda, she continues to venture farther out to sea," OCEARCH wrote in a Facebook post.

OCEARCH is currently tracking more than 400 animals around the world including sharks, whales and seals. For the sharks, the scientists use devices fitted to the animals that "ping" when their dorsal fins break the surface of the water. When this happens, the tags send off a signal that is received by a satellite above Earth.

It still doesn’t look like @UnamakiShark has any intention of heading back to the coast any time soon. After buzzing out and paying a quick visit to Bermuda, she continues to venture farther out to sea. pic.twitter.com/UDmS50BIDF

— OCEARCH (@OCEARCH) May 7, 2020

These signals enable the OCEARCH team to work out where the sharks are and build up a picture of their movements over time.

Unama'ki's tracker last pinged on May 10 when the shark was located southeast of Bermuda—a British island territory in the North Atlantic.

These movements form part of a longer journey that the shark began undertaking last month, when she started moving away from the U.S. east coast and into the open ocean. Researchers call these trips away from the coast "pelagic journeys," with the word "pelagic" referring to anything that relates to, lives, or occurs in the open sea.

The reasons behind Unama'ki's trajectory remain unclear, although these types of journeys are not totally unprecedented among the great white sharks that OCEARCH tracks.

Researchers from the non-profit believe that the shark may be pregnant given that they have witnessed large, mature females making similar journeys before. A ping on April 1 indicated that Unama'ki was turning eastwards away from the Florida coast, and it has continued on this path since then.

"This is not necessarily a surprising observation because we have seen it before from several other mature female white sharks. It is interesting though because it is primarily a journey we see large mature females make," OCEARCH Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader Chris Fischer previously told Newsweek.

"One of our hypotheses for this is that they are gestating. A previous shark we tracked making one of these journeys into the open ocean, named Mary Lee, returned to shore near Long Island, which is a white shark nursery. If Unama'ki makes a long journey out in the open ocean, she could lead us to a new nursery when she returns to the coast if she is gestating. We will be watching her closely," he said.

Unama’ki
The great white shark known as Unama’ki aboard the OCEARCH research vessel. OCEARCH/R. Snow