Somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico, there is a 14-foot-long, 2,300-pound great white shark barreling towards the Texas coast. Her name is Katharine.
Last August, both Katharine and a fellow great white named Betsy were tagged off the coast of Cape Cod. Since then, they've been busy traveling down the East Coast, around Florida, and into the Gulf of Mexico. Their movements are being tracked by Ocearch, the non-profit organization that catches, tags, and monitors the sharks to help other researchers gather data for studies of the predators. You can follow the travels of Katharine, Betsy, and other tagged sharks around the globe in near real-time using the Ocearch website.
A satellite recently picked up a ping from Katharine's tracking device 100 miles southwest of Florida. The tags send a signal every time the sharks surface. If she continues on this route, in a week she will be past the Mississippi River, and seems to be headed right for the Lone Star coast. Another great white, Betsy, was tracked 120 miles west of Sanibel Island, Florida on June 5th. Don't be fooled by her equally lovely name — Betsy is 1,400 pounds and almost thirteen feet long.
"Every track is giving us new information and going contrary to all the assumptions that we were going on," says Dr. Robert Hueter, director of the center for shark research at Mote Marine Laboratory. Hueter told the Houston Chronicle, that "having them in the Gulf is something we thought happened in the winter time. [The tags are] allowing us to essentially follow along as these sharks do their thing. These tags can last as many as five years." This is the second odd shark development in the Gulf of Mexico this year, where a rare (and pretty ugly) goblin shark was spotted.
Hopefully, scientists get a glimpse of Katharine and Betsy during their trip to Texas to see how they've developed. Their size is pretty impressive already, but they may be larger by now. The largest recorded great white was 21 feet long, and Betsy still has some growing to do.
In the meantime, The Wire recommends Texans keep an eye on what's in their waters.