After Creating Stir For Last Week, Mary Lee Headed On Northern Path?

After Creating Stir For Last Week, Mary Lee Headed On Northern Path?
mary lee

ASSATEAGUE — A great white shark spent much of the last week off the coast of Assateague Island as close as 20 yards from shore and even made a brief appearance in the Chincoteague Bay, but by Thursday morning, “Mary Lee” had taken a decidedly northern track and pinged near the mouth of the Delaware Bay.

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 allowed researchers to track her movements, migration patterns, and feeding and breeding habits in an effort to gain a better understanding of the largely misunderstood creatures.

Last Thursday, “Mary Lee” created quite a stir in the local area when she “pinged” just off the coast of Assateague near the Maryland-Virginia border. The satellite tag affixed to the shark’s dorsal fin pings when it breaks the surface, allowing researchers to track her movements. For much of the last week, Mary Lee was tracked in and around Assateague as close as 20 yards from shore and early Tuesday morning briefly appeared in the shallow Chincoteague Bay.

Mary Lee’s movements were followed closely through OCEARCH’s website and on social media, with thousands of curiosity seekers tracking the big great white’s location. OCEARCH even started a Twitter account for the big great white, allowing followers to weigh in on the rare spectacle. It goes without saying big sharks including great whites have always cruised in the waters just off the resort coast and up and down the mid-Atlantic, but OCEARCH’s tagging program has altered the perception of the mysterious creatures somewhat.

While Mary Lee spent much of the last week within a radius of less than 100 miles and pinged at least a dozen times in and around Assateague, by yesterday morning, the big great white had veered north and apparently left the local area. Around 8 a.m. on Thursday, Mary Lee pinged near the mouth of the Delaware Bay and appeared to be heading to the New Jersey shore area, but its zig-zagging migration pattern could have it returning to the resort area again.

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. 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.