Where is she this year?
If she’s around the Lowcountry, we likely won’t know it. There’s been a long silence from her Ocearch satellite tracker. Her last recorded position, or “ping,” was the morning of June 17 off the coast of New Jersey.
Ocearch founder Chris Fischer told the Asbury Park Press this week that one reason no one has heard from Mary Lee could be that the battery on her tracking device has died. A five-year battery life is typical of the technology, he said.
“We might hear from her again, but we might not. Her tag may have run its course,” Fischer told the New Jersey newspaper.
But Mary Lee’s Twitter account was still keeping things light-hearted this week.
Mary Lee’s dorsal fin was tagged with a Smart Position and Temperature (SPOT) device on Sept. 17, 2012, off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The tracker sends a signal to a satellite when the shark breaks the surface of the water.
In the five years researchers have been tracking Mary Lee, who is estimated to be 40-50 years old, she’s logged nearly 40,000 miles up and down the East Coast and into the deeper Atlantic all the way to Bermuda.
Every year like clockwork Mary Lee has made her way to South Carolina coast in the fall and winter, according to Ocearch’s tracking.
And she’s not the only one.
Chip Michalove, the Hilton Head Island charter boat captain who has studied great white sharks and their behaviors for more than a decade, previously told The Island Packet that it’s normal behavior for great white sharks to visit the South Carolina coastal area as the weather gets cooler.
“Great whites are here in the winter,” Michalove said. “The water gets hot and then (they) move out in the spring. ... Took me about 12 years of studying this to be the first one to catch or even see one in South Carolina.”
Earlier this month, Michalove hooked two great white sharks on one day off the coast of Hilton Head. He was able to catch and tag one of them with a tracking device for the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy in Chatham, Massachusetts.
He named the shark Amy after his neighbor Amy Key Prater, of Hilton Head, who beat breast cancer.
A ping from a great white named Savannah, who was tagged by Ocearch in March off the coast of Hilton Head, placed her off the coast of Charleston at 8:44 a.m. Thursday.
Hilton, the great white named for Hilton Head Island in the spring, was recorded off the coast of North Carolina just after 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
At the same time — 7:17 p.m. — and also off the coast of North Carolina, Ocearch recorded a ping from a young great white named Bruin.