"The more you look, the more you see them. They move around and are closer to populated areas than we probably expect."
How long is it safe to keep them on the platform?
Nobody wants to push it. OCEARCH is conservative. They say no more than 15 minutes. You could probably push it to half an hour, 45 minutes and the shark would be fine, but nobody wants to do that.
Are these eastern sharks as battle scarred as the ones you see out west?
We’re just finishing up some research that indicates that this species may live 70 to even 100 years. So these are big, old animals. You think of any big, old animal that’s dealt with the elements and survival—even though they’re the top dogs in the ocean, there are other top dogs, too. And every time a shark goes after prey it’s taking a risk. So they’re going to be scarred up. I’ve been down in a cage with them and it’s like looking at an old Navy veteran—like Quint in Jaws—where you look at them and sort of ask, Wow, where did you get that scar?
Any surprises to you in the movements of these Eeastern sharks?
Well, almost all the information is new, and that’s the beauty of it. One of the things we found out from early tagging in 2009 and 2010—we knew that white sharks spend winters off the coast, anywhere from southern North Carolina down as far as Cape Canaveral. The classic thinking was that they move off the northeast and then to North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and then Florida, but in fact, the movement is not linear at all. Mary Lee—she moves from Georgia to South Carolina in a few days and just goes back and forth. It’s almost a random movement, and we’re just learning about all of it as we go along.
Chris Dixon is author of Ghost Wave: The Discovery of Cortes Bank and the Biggest Wave on Earth. He is more afraid of big sharks than big waves, but just barely.