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Great white in the Area

On May 13th, the great white shark affectionately known as Katherine was travelling in the area of Sebastian Inlet State Park.  Within a 24 hour period, she broke the surface approximately 8 times.  Researchers are able to follow her movements via a GPS tracking device and satellite signals and are now stating that Katherine has since travelled down towards the Keys.

While Katherine was in the local area, she was identified as being close to the entrance to the Indian River Lagoon.  A little later, her GPS was picked up near “Monster Hole”, a popular local surfing spot.  It is believed she came as close to a mile from the shoreline and it’s quite possible there is at least one under-water diver who had a close encounter with her.

Here’s what we know about Katherine:

She was named for Katherine Lee Bates, one of the authors of the song “America the Beautiful”.  Katherine Lee Bates was born in Cape Cod, which is also where Katherine was first spotted and tagged in August 2013. Katherine is about 14-feet long and weighs an impressive 2,300 pounds.  In the past year, she has travelled from the north-eastern shores of the US down to the southern Florida coast, for a total of 3,945 miles. She is thought to be a young shark, but her exact age is not known.

You can follow Katherine on twitter by following @Shark_Katherine or @ocearch.

Tracking the shark:

Katherine usually travels somewhere from 1.5 to 1.8 miles per hour and has made a pretty straight beeline south from the north-eastern coast.

OCearch.dom, a non-profit group, tracks the movement of Katherine and 47 other tagged sharks. They are able to do so through the GPS tracking systems, but can only capture GPS “pings” when the sharks surface.  In fact, the GPS tracking system is placed within the shark’s dorsal fin, so that specific part of the shark must break the surface

Although great white sharks usually stay within a singular geographic oceanic range, many scientists believe that they can make trans-oceanic journeys.  Earlier this year Ocearch made headlines when one of their tagged sharks became the first shark to be documented making a coast-to-coast trek.

Her name is Lydia.  Lydia was tagged near Jacksonville, Florida in March of 2013.  Since then, she crossed the mid-Atlantic Ridge into the Northern Atlantic Ocean and got as far as the UK’s Cornish coast.  Some scientists speculated that Lydia could be pregnant and may be giving birth somewhere in the Mediterranean near Turkey.  However, she has reversed course and is currently somewhere in the mid-Atlantic.  No word on whether she is really pregnant.

Katherine doesn’t seem to have quite the exploratory personality as Lydia.  She has stayed pretty close to the shore, although her trip into Sebastian Inlet Park was much closer to the shoreline than she normally gets.  It’s rare for sharks to travel to the Keys and especially with the speculation that she could be heading into the Gulf of Mexico, Katherine is certainly creating her own headlines.

07 Jul

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