Massive Great White Pings Off Assateague Coast

Massive Great White Pings Off Assateague Coast
mary lee shark graphic

ASSATEAGUE — A satellite tracker on a massive great white shark pinged just off the coast of Assateague early Thursday morning, becoming the latest tagged big shark to make its presence known in the resort area.

In September 2012, OCEARCH, a research organization that tracks the movements of big sharks all over the world, tagged a 16-foot, 3,500-pound-plus mature female great white off the coast of Cape Cod. The shark, named “Mary Lee,” was fitted with a satellite tag that allows researchers to track her movements, migration habits and feeding habits in order to gain a better understanding of the largely misunderstood creatures.

Since being tagged in September 2012, Mary Lee has traveled some 19,000-plus miles from the New England coast to the northern Caribbean and beyond. Early Thursday morning, the massive great white reportedly cruised by just off the coast of Assateague.

Mary Lee’s satellite tag pinged off the Assateague coast around 7:27 a.m. on Thursday, according to OCEARCH researchers. By Thursday afternoon, Mary Lee’s satellite tag had not pinged again and it was uncertain if she had moved on from the area. Throughout the time Mary Lee has been tracked, she has averaged about 27 miles of travel in a 24-hour period and a little over 100 miles in a 72-hour period.

OCEARCH researchers name the big sharks when they are first tagged and track their movement through the satellite and GPS. Mary Lee was named after OCEARCH expedition leader Chris Fischer’s mother.

“My parents have done so much,” he said. “I was waiting and waiting for a special shark to name after her and this is truly the most historic and legendary fish I have ever been a part of.”

The arrival of Mary Lee off the coast of Assateague early Thursday morning was not the first time a big shark tagged by OCEARCH has made its presence felt in and around the resort area. Last August, a 13-foot, 1,000-pound tiger shark named “Septima” pinged twice in the span of less than an hour way up in the Isle of Wight Bay, causing quite a stir briefly for residents and visitors in Ocean City during the height of the summer season. The shark’s dorsal fin satellite tag first pinged in the Isle of Wight Bay near the Route 90 bridge around 2:29 p.m. In some cases, a shark breaking the surface for only a split second will not provide a strong enough satellite signal to confirm its location, but when Septima pinged again in the same area around 3:10 p.m. the same day, it was confirmed with certainty the big predator was where it appeared to be.