Alert reader Chris has called to my attention the existence of a site that plots where radio-tagged great white sharks are (Carcharodon carcharias). It’s the OCEARCH Global Shark Tracker, and if you go there you’ll see a map like this:
All the sharks appear to be great whites, and the color of the dots tells you how long ago the location was recorded (orange: 72 hrs.; green: less than 30 days; blue: more than 30 days). Each shark is identified individually and has a name, so you can follow a single one around.
Pity there aren’t many dots, but at least if you’re in Virginia, Georgia, or southeast Africa, you’ll know to stay out of the water.
Looking up these beasts, it appears that their reputation as human-killers is largely undeserved, since we’re not really good fudz for these beasts. Most bites appear to be “test bites”, in which the shark takes a nibble and decides that we’re the shark equivalent of broccoli. As Wikipedia notes:
Humans are not appropriate prey because the shark’s digestion is too slow to cope with a human’s high ratio of bone to muscle and fat. Accordingly, in most recorded attacks, great whites broke off contact after the first bite. Fatalities are usually caused by blood loss from the initial bite rather than from critical organ loss or from whole consumption. Since 1990, there have been a total of 139 unprovoked great white shark attacks, 29 fatal.
Still, these things scare the hell out of me, because their faces look so . . . robotic, making them seem like killing machines.
Here’s a National Geographic video that shows their ferocity, especially when attacking decoy seals towed behind a boat (and yes, I worry that those decoys will kill the sharks if swallowed):
And a bit more information from the Unofficial Stanford Blog:
One of the ocean’s most fearsome predators may be in dire straits. According to a research team led by Barbara Block, Professor in Marine Sciences at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station, there are fewer than 3,500 great white sharks remaining in the wild, making them rarer than tigers.
Scientists had previously believed great whites were rare but not endangered because they were spotted in a variety of distant locations. However, according to the team’s unpublished study, people have been seeing the same sharks.
To gather data, Professor Block and her team used satellite and acoustic tracking devices to monitor over 150 great whites in southern California and Hawaii. They found that great whites are remarkable long distance swimmers, capable of travelling 12,000 miles in nine months. In addition, the researchers discovered that sharks spotted in Hawaii were the same individuals observed off the coast of California just six months later.