One shark was monumental, two: legendary.
Lead Scientist Dr. Greg Skomal and Chief Engineer Denny Wagner watch as 16 foot Mary Lee swims around the stern of the boat.
Mary Lee was first spotted yesterday by Chief Engineer Denny Wagner from atop the MV OCEARCH. “Great White!” He yelled down to Juan who spun around to see the great white who would become known as Mary Lee. Juan was immediately on the radio to the Contender to alert them to her sighting. As the crew aboard the Contender raced back to the mother ship, Juan made sure the shark stayed within range. Within minutes the Contender was at the starboard end of the ship, with Mary Lee circling.
Just like Genie, Mary Lee wouldn’t take the bait. She became curious as time wore on and started with the same pattern as Genie by nudging at the Yamaha Outboards at the back of the boat, and continued to circle. Finally the call came in to the MV OCEARCH, “We’re hooked up!”
Mary Lee wasn’t going to swim into that cradle without a fight. It was a long walk up the current before the attachment of the buoys could be attempted. With two buoys on they started toward the mother ship. The current was ripping at about two and a half to three knots. Suddenly Mary Lee rolled and chewed off one of her buoys. Left with only one buoy to keep her near the top of the water, they attempted to bring her in.
As they approached, she dove and took a hard right to avoid the cradle causing the Contender to make a second pass once they had reattached a second buoy. Second time was the charm even as the battled the current. As Mary Lee made her way onto the lift her massive size became overwhelmingly apparent. With Juan at the controls, the lift was raised safely out of the water and Mary Lee was ready to be fitted with three different tags: SPOT, accelerometer and acoustic.
In the midst of tagging, an attempt to get her blood was made. The current was just too strong to lower the cradle, but Dr. Greg Skomal had to at least give it a try. As Captain Jody Whitworth, Chief Engineer Denny Wagner and First Mate Todd Goggins began to assist, her tail began to thrash, knocking Denny to the ground, swiping Todd and nearly flinging Jody off the lift.
Once calm, tissues samples were taken, parasites were gathered but the blood work had to be aborted. With time ticking, Mary Lee was lowered back into the surging current. Water hit her gills and she swung herself around on the lift. Captain Brett clung to the side as she charged out of the lift.
Chris Fischer reflects on Mary Lee and the crusade to get Mary Lee in the lift, “The most brutal battle, we have ever had. Bret McBride, Jody Whitworth, Todd Goggins. True warriors in the midst of a a modern day battle with an ocean giant in the toughest of environments we had ever had to work.”
Mary Lee’s name comes from Chris Fischer’s mother. “My parents have done so much. 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 and it set the tone for Cape Cod,“ says Chris. She weighed in at 3456 pounds and measured and even 16 feet long.
Being able to tag not one, but two mature female sharks will double the amount data for the science team in terms of understanding their breeding and mating habits. “When you have two adult females, anything similar can tell us that we could possibly have a pattern. If you have just one, you can’t tell if it’s just abnormal behavior because you have nothing to compare it to,” says Dr. Nick Whitney.
This truly was the most historic, modern day ocean expedition, right in the waters of our own back yard. The puzzle of Jaws can be solved due to the hard work put in by the OCEARCH team.
Mary Lee checks out the OCEARCH. She weighs in at 3,456 pounds.
Ph.D. Candidate Heather Marshall who studies under Dr. Greg Skomal gets the SPOT tag ready.
The SPOT tag is prepared. Check to see if Mary Lee has pinged in yet!
The Contender “walks” Mary Lee to the shark lift.
Captain Brett McBride climbs into the shark lift with Mary Lee.
The shark lift goes up and Mary Lee massive body is exposed!
Captain Jody and Deckhand Alex Snow take her measurements.
Mary Lee’s caudal fin is massive!
Expedition Leader Chris Fischer and Brandon Eyre fix the SPOT tag to Mary Lee. Mary Lee will continue to ping in on the shark tracker in real time for the next 5 years.
Above is the SPOT satellite tag and below is the pop off accelerometer tag. Dr Nick Whitney spent today in a large swell trying to recover the tag.
Captain Brett McBide and Denny Wagner make sure Mary Lee has a continuous flow of water through her gills while she is on the lift.
Mary Lee swings her tail! The team takes refuge.
Nice view from the second level deck.
Heather Marshall shows off the samples she took from Mary Lee.
Dr. Nick Whitney, Expedition Leader Chris Fischer and Lead Scientist Greg Skomal are ecstatic after Mary Lee swims away!
Expedition Leader Chris Fischer, Dr. Greg Skomal, Denny Wagner and Captain Brett McBride are all smiles tonight!