HOUSTON (HOUSTON CHRONICLE)- Scientists tracking a great white shark as she traverses the Gulf of Mexico got the latest signal back from her tag Sunday and she is heading for Texas.
A satellite picked up a "ping" from Katherine, a more than two thousand pound great white shark about 100 miles south west of the Florida coast. In another week she could be past the Mississippi river, a week after that she could be right here, off the coast of the Lone Star State, researchers said.
Katherine is one of two great whites that research teams, led by Ocearch, have been following as they trek across our waters. Another, Betsy, was tracked on June 5 about 120 miles west of Sanibel Island, Fl.
Both giants were tagged last August off Cape Cod. Scientists say their epic journey down the coast and into the Gulf is giving researchers unprecedented insight into white shark behavior.
"Every track is giving us new information and going contrary to all the assumptions that we were going on," said Dr. Robert Hueter, Director of the center for shark research at Mote Marine Laboratory, "Having them in the Gulf is something we thought happened in the winter time."
Each tag sends a signal back to base every time the shark comes to the surface, which for one of them at least, is fairly often.
Katherine was registered most recently Sunday at 4.55pm, 140 miles west of Sarasota Fl. It means she has now traveled almost 5,000 miles since being tagged just 10 months ago.
Throughout her journey she has stayed close into the coast. Beach goers can track her path via the Ocearch website and match it up with their vacations to see if she swam by them.
"It's allowing us to essentially follow along as these sharks do their thing. These tags can last as many as five years. It gives us a completely different perspectives from the older tags," said Dr. Hueter.
The older tags simply showed where a shark was first caught and then when it was caught again, nothing in between. It's hoped the new information will help protect one of the world's largest predators.
"These are a protected species, if we're going to protect them, we need to know where they are and where they're going," Dr. Hueter said.
Katherine is the larger of the two, weighing in at 2,300 pounds at the time of her tagging. At that time she was 14-feet, 2-inches" long but scientists following her say it's almost certain she has grown since then. The largest ever recorded great white was 21 feet long.
The second shark, Betsy, is also likely to be bigger now. Tagged one day before Katherine, she weighed 1,400 pounds and measured 12-feet, 7-inches.