World

Face to face with great whites to solve '450-million-year' mystery

Published 5:35 AM ET, Fri October 4, 2013
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High-tech tagging equipment? Check. Top scientists? Check. Towel to cover the eyes of one of the most ferocious predators of the sea? Check. Just a day in the life of great white shark researchers, Ocearch. Courtesy Ocearch
The team has been busy tagging sharks off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, close to where Steven Spielberg filmed his 1975 Hollywood blockbuster, "Jaws." Here, a shark swims away after the operation, which is attempting to reveal their mysterious breeding and migration habits. Courtesy Ocearch
Unlike previous shark tagging methods which used darts shot from a distance, the Ocearch team lures the fearsome creatures on to a moveable platform. Courtesy Ocearch
Once on board, the gutsy team has just 15 minutes to bolt a satellite tracking tag to the fin, insert another acoustic tag in the abdomen, attach a third tag monitoring scale movements and tail beats, take blood and tissue samples, and even conduct an ultrasound. Courtesy Ocearch
Tubes of water are inserted in the shark's mouth, cascading down the gills. "As soon as we bring them on the platform the first thing I do is cover their eyes with a dark, wet towel and that usually calms them right down," said captain Brett McBride. Courtesy Ocearch
Since launching in 2007, the team has tagged more than 60 great whites, helping to build a global map of shark migration. "They are an iconic species and we have massive knowledge gaps about their lives," said expedition leader, Chris Fischer. "When we make this journey, a historic journey to kind of solve that puzzle, why not involve the whole world in real time?" Courtesy Ocearch