Earlier in the year, most of the First Coast was put on high alert when a 16ft great white shark by the name of Mary Lee was tracked off the local Jacksonville shores.
While it may be terrifying to imagine a large predator cruising the waters so close to home, many local residents were curious if there could be more Mary Lee’s out there, prompting OCEARCH (pronounced O-search), a non profit global research company, to set up shop in Jacksonville to tag great white sharks over the course of 20 days.
Captain Brett McBride admits in the first of many video diaries of the journey that looking for great whites in the choppy waters of the South Atlantic is like trying to find needle in a haystack. But Expedition Jax leader Chris Fischer remains optimistic:
“We know they’re here and we know some of our sharks have led us here. The Coastguard has seen them. They’re out here and really spread out. No one knows where they come from. If we get one shark in the next 20 days it will be a historic moment” said Fischer.
Once the Expedition Jax team tracks down a great white, the researchers bring the shark on board, bio-samples are taken, a SPOT tag along with an accelerometer is placed on the shark’s dorsal fin and females are given an ultrasound to determine if they are pregnant before being released back into the waters.
From that moment on, every movement of the shark is documented and tracked to help scientists from all over the globe in solving some of the biggest mysteries of the great white. And this is all happening right off Jacksonville’s coast.
The first video diary from Expedition Jax unfortunately doesn’t show any shark tagging but does however show some great footage of the team docking near downtown Jacksonville as well as the prep work that goes into taking on a research project of this magnitude.