Great white shark Katharine bypasses island

Katherine on the day she was tagged in Cape Cod.

Katherine on the day she was tagged in Cape Cod.

R. SNOW/OCREACH
Published: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 14:33 PM.

On Friday, June 20, a 14-foot, 2,300-pound shark passed about 60 miles south of St. George Island headed west. Experts say she may be headed for Texas.

Katharine, a white shark (Latin name: carcharodon carcharias) has taken on celebrity status along with dozens of other sharks tagged with electronic tracking devices. The lovely Katharine, Kat for short, now has star status due to her unusual migratory meanderings.

Chris Fischer is founder and expedition leader for OCEARCH, an acronym combing Ocean and Research, a non-profit organization with a global reach for research on great white sharks and other large apex predators. He said Katharine has become particularly popular among about 50 sharks being tracked because she often swims close to shore.

"I think what makes her special is she swam right down the east coast of Florida, right through Miami, right around Key West and then showed us for the first time in history how the white shark gets up into the Gulf of Mexico," Fischer said in an interview with Computerworld. "When she swims through these populated areas ... more and more people feel included and join in the movement."

Though sharks like Katharine typically cruise up and down the eastern seaboard, she is currently crossing the Gulf of Mexico. Experts from OCEARCH believe she may be heading past the Mississippi River for the Texas coastline.

Originally tagged by OCEARCH researchers off Cape Cod last August, she was named after Katharine Lee Bates, a Cape Cod native and writer of the patriotic song "America the Beautiful."

A dorsal fin tag attached by OCEARCH uses a satellite to track a Katharine’s position each time she breaks the surface. Other tags include an RFID implant whose ping is picked up whenever the shark passes a special, underwater buoy; an accelerometer, similar to the technology used in an iPhone or Nintendo Wii, that detects up or down movement; and a Pop-off Satellite Archive Tag (PSAT), which acts as a general archive, recording average water depth, temperature and light levels.



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