Shark Tracker Goes 'Crazy' Monitoring Great Whites on East Coast

Shark trackers on the East Coast have gone into overdrive following the sudden arrival of eight great whites over the weekend.

"Check out how crazy the Tracker went over the weekend with white shark pings," said OCEARCH, a marine conservation nonprofit, in a Facebook post published Monday.

"Eight sharks tagged during three separate expeditions all sent back pings stretching from Nantucket to Florida."

OCEARCH's trackers show Hal—a 12-foot, 6-inch male weighing 1,420 pounds—was last spotted near Long Island, New York. Murdoch—a 14-foot, 10-inch male weighing 1,325 whose name means "of the sea" in Gaelic—patrols the coast near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

But it was North Carolina that took "the award for most white shark pings" over the last week, said OCEARCH—"with 5 sharks popping up off the coast there."

The five sharks include Cabot—a 9-foot, 8-inch male weighing 533 pounds—who was last tracked entering Albemarle Sound, a large estuary in North Carolina, last week.

Great White Shark Underside
A great white shark pictured off the coast of Guadalupe Island on September 15, 2016. Shark trackers on the East Coast have gone into overdrive following the sudden arrival of eight great whites over the weekend. Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan//Getty

Cabot, Murdoch, Hal and the others are just a handful of North Atlantic great white sharks currently making their way down the East Coast. It is part of a 2,000-mile journey, which takes them from Nova Scotia to the Gulf of Mexico. Once there, they will join Unama'ki—a 15-foot, 5-inch behemoth who weighs in at more than 2,000 pounds.

Unama'ki, whose name means "land of the fog" (the Mi'kmaq term for Cape Breton), arrived in the Gulf of Mexico in mid-October, surprising researchers, Newsweek reported at the time. Staff said it is the first time they have tracked a white shark in the Gulf of Mexico so early.

"Prior to this year, the earliest we've seen a white shark travel into the Gulf is late December," said OCEARCH in a Facebook post dated November 14.

Since her arrival, Unama'ki has been joined by two others. Helena, a 12-foot, 5-inch female, and Hudson, a 5-foot, 1-inch young male, have also been tracked in the Gulf of Mexico.

Boat Tracking Great White
An Atlantic White Shark Conservancy boat and crew work to tag a Great White Shark in the waters off the shore in Cape Cod, Massachusetts on July 13, 2019. JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP/Getty

OCEARCH has been studying the movement and behavior of North Atlantic great white sharks for years, using satellite trackers that "ping" when a shark raises its fin above the surface. Some sharks "ping" more than others because they spend more time near the surface.

Their research reveals the Atlantic's continental shelf waters around Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas are a "winter hot spot" for the Northeast Atlantic population, similar to the "White Shark Cafe" frequented by white sharks on the West Coast.

The area from Cape Canaveral in Florida to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina is known as the Northwest Atlantic Shared Foraging Area, an attractive spot for sharks because of its cooler waters and abundance of prey.

"We suspect nearly all white sharks in the NW Atlantic utilize it during the winter," said OCEARCH.

Shark Tracker Goes 'Crazy' Monitoring Great Whites on East Coast | Tech & Science