Katharine, a 14ft-long great white shark with a Twitter follow, reappeared off the east coast of the United States this week. A transmitter attached to her dorsal fin hadn’t sent out an accurate message for a year and a half.
The transmitter mounted off Cape Cod in August 2013 is nearly half the size of an iPhone and pings whenever the shark breaks the surface of the ocean.
Great whites can last for a long time without emerging. Katharine did so off South Carolina in May 2019, according to a map maintained by Ocearch, whose team is spying on her. This spring, Ocearch said she thought Katharine might have been heard from “about 200 miles off the coast of Virginia”.
But on Monday, this group said she had certainly been on track, hundreds of miles off the same state.
In a post on the Ocearch Facebook page, Dr. Bryan Franks of Jacksonville University wrote: “Katharine is alive and well … Katharine pings several times yesterday, confirming it was not a fluke.”
The tags used on Atlantic white sharks “usually only send us data for five years,” says Franks, which means “very unusual for us to hear from a shark. in the meantime and that’s exactly the kind of data we’re looking to help put together the pieces or her life and [north-west] Great Atlantic white shark like you.
“Katharine showed movement patterns that indicated an adult female white shark was spawning on several winters to the ocean.
“Her tracks of the past seven years up and down the coast from Cape Cod to Florida and with long strides to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, east of the Gulf of Mexico and off the Atlantic, may include of her two or three cycles of pregnancy and childbirth.
“She has provided a staggering metric with more than 1,700 locations, covering 37,000 miles of ocean since the day she was tagged. It will be fascinating to see where her next moves could be. ”
Some have criticized Ocearch’s use of social media to advertise their work. Others point out that it elevates the record of an important conservation effort.
Katharine is named after Katharine Lee Bates, the 19th century lyrical poet who wrote Beautiful America. After the shark emerged at an ugly time for American democracy, her Twitter account began retweeting.
“Miss me?” Katharine asked her 62,000 followers, adding, about the coronavirus pandemic: “So everyone knows YES, I wore a mask when I showed up.”
In response to a user who suggested she was back in time for the presidential election, she wrote: “I mean. I’m chasing a fish, but I’m going to roll around with it. ”
On Friday, with election results trapped in the midnight counting area and partisan war, she added: “Safe to return? Ya will have a crazy week there. “
In fact, Katharine is not the most popular white person on Twitter. A shark account called Mary Lee has 132,000 followers. According to Ocearch, her transmitter has not been pinging since June 2017.