It’s looking like the hottest holiday bash in Beaufort County could be happening off the coast — and only sharks are invited for the Great White Shark Party, Christmas Edition.
The first to arrive appears to be Savannah, a young female great white shark who was tracked within a mile off Hunting Island’s South Beach at 4:42 a.m. Friday. Thirteen minutes later, at 4:55 a.m., her satellite tracker “pinged” in deeper water farther south.
Savannah, who is more than 8 feet long and weighs about 460 pounds, was tagged by Ocearch researchers off Hilton Head Island last spring as part of a mission dubbed “Expedition Lowcountry.” She was equipped with a tracker that sends a signal to a satellite when her dorsal fin breaks the surface of the water. Since she was tagged March 5, she has traveled more than 3,100 miles, all the way to Nova Scotia and back.
Hot on her heels — uh, fins? — is Hilton, another great white tagged in the spring and named for Hilton Head Island. The 12-foot long, 1,300-pound shark was off the coast Charleston at 2:31 p.m. on Thursday.
Since March 3, Hilton has traveled more than 6,600 miles, zigzagging up and down the East Coast. In late November, he was still hanging around off the coast of Nova Scotia.
Ocearch founder Chris Fischer told The Canadian Press at the time that he thought Hilton might be looking to mate.
“I believe he’s up there looking for love and has been all fall,” Fischer told the news agency. “They should only have one thing on their mind, and that’s making baby sharks.”
Yeti, another young female great white who appears to be heading south for the holiday, “pinged” just before 9 p.m. Thursday off the coast of Myrtle Beach. Yeti is 11 feet long and weighs about 960 pounds. She has been tracked by Ocearch since 2016.
And Mary Lee?
This time last year, the internet’s most popular shark was hanging around between Tybee Island and Hilton Head. Mary Lee, a 3,400-pound great white, hasn’t “pinged” since June, though, and researchers fear that the battery on her tracking device has died. A five-year battery life is typical of the technology, they say. Mary Lee was tagged in 2012.
Chip Michalove, a Hilton Head Island charter boat captain who has studied great white sharks and their behaviors for more than a decade, told The Island Packet that it’s common for great white sharks to visit the South Carolina coastal area as the weather gets cooler.