One of the largest sharks ever tagged in the North Atlantic has captured the attention of researchers by reappearing just over two weeks later, 1,022 miles south off North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
Where is the 15-foot-5-inch shark headed?
Researchers with OCEARCH, which tagged the shark on Sept. 20 off Nova Scotia, are watching closely to find out.
One thing the data has already proven is that really big sharks — 2,076 pounds in this case — can be found off North Carolina’s barrier islands, and they’re not far from shore.
Named Unama’ki, the great white appeared on tracking equipment at 11:51 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8., along the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge, the northern-most stretch of the Outer Banks at the Virginia border.
On Sunday, Oct. 13, Unama’ki appeared yet again on satellite, another 250 miles south near Charleston, South Carolina. That’s a total of 1,279 miles is about three weeks.
Unama’ki was fixed with a satellite-linked tag and counts as the “second biggest” white shark caught in the northwest Atlantic by OCEARCH.
The biggest shark, 16-foot Mary Lee, was tagged in 2012 but has not shown up on satellite tracking since June 2017, according to OCEARCH. Her whereabouts are a mystery, and it’s unclear whether she’s still alive.
The nonprofit OCEARCH and SeaWorld partnered on the tagging of Unama’ki, which they hope will reveal new details on white shark migration, diet and social behavior, the Charlotte Observer reported last month.
OCEARCH began tracking white sharks more than a decade ago, and its data has revealed continental shelf waters off the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida is “a winter hot spot for large white sharks.”
Whether Unama’ki will linger in the region or continue moving south is among the things researchers hope to find out in coming weeks.