June 25, 2014
’ve always had a desire to impulsively learn everything I can about the things that terrify me. When I was a kid, you could always find me in the library reading about tornadoes, spiders, and — here’s the big one — sharks. I think on some level we all take comfort in learning more about that which we fear, so we can be best prepared to face it in a worst-case scenario. While my fear of sharks has certainly diminished as I’ve grown older and learned more about them, I can’t help but retain a sense of awe — one that the ratings of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week seems to be shared among many others. There’s something fascinating and majestic about a predator as efficient as the shark, and it is this very sense of wonder that has driven a group of people much braver than me to study the creatures.
Marine biologist Chris Fischer has begun his own personal Odyssey to tag and study sharks, using advanced GPS and satellite technology to follow them literally anywhere in the world. By studying these sharks, their mating habits, breeding habits, and swimming patterns, Fischer hopes to gain a level of insight into these apex predators that no one has been able to achieve before. In a video featured on ABC’s website, their correspondent asked Fischer how the activities they’ve been observing differ from the activities garnered in previous studies. “This is the first time we’re establishing these tracks to establish what normal even is,” Fischer said. Ocearch, the organization he heads up, has made it their goal to shed as much light upon the facts of the great white as possible, trying to dispel many of the popular misconceptions about sharks.
“Mary Lee’s track is a perfect example of why people don’t really need to be worried about sharks when they go swimming,” Fischer pointed out. “She has cruised the entire length of the Eastern Seaboard on the beach.” Despite her path, and despite the fact that at times she was as close as 200 yards from the shoreline, no one so much as spotted the shark. Fischer did contact the authorities at one point when she drew close to a popular surfing site off the coast of Florida, but it was a preemptive measure that thankfully ended without incident. Ocearch has made their tracking records public, and encourages people to follow the sharks that they are studying. One recent article focuses on tracking one particular shark named Katherine in her journey from Cape Cod all the way down to the gulf of Mexico.
Interested in trying it? You can go to Ocearch’s website and track any of their tagged sharks. It shows their current location as well as the date that they were tagged. On the right-hand side, a news feed provides updates and stories involving several of the specific sharks, giving you an interesting look at when they were tagged, and what kind of data the program has extrapolated from them thus far.
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