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Atlantic shark heads north



Date published: 2/1/2013

BY BRUCE SMITH

Associated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C.

--It seems Mary Lee's winter vacation in the sunny South is over.

The 3,500-pound great white shark headed north after spending weeks off the Southeast coast. Mary Lee, one of only two great whites ever tagged in the North Atlantic, got as far south as Jacksonville Beach, Fla., several weeks ago. But in recent days, she's made a bee line north.

On Thursday, she was off Long Island, N.Y. Researchers can't really say they are surprised because the habits of the great white are such a mystery.

"Lo and behold, Mary Lee goes down there for a little while and then bugs out and now she's off Long Island and we realize we don't know anything," said Chris Fischer, the founder of OCEARCH, a nonprofit dedicated to studying great whites and other large marine species.

Fischer's group has tagged dozens of great whites off South Africa and in the Pacific. He led the September expedition to tag Mary Lee off Cape Cod, and named the shark after his mother. The group also tagged a second great white, Genie.

"I felt like at the moment, Mary Lee was the most legendary fish caught in history," he said. "We were at the home of 'Jaws,' we were capturing a great white to save it and solve the puzzle of the great white."

"Jaws," the 1975 blockbuster movie directed by Steven Spielberg, was a fictitious tale of a great white causing havoc at a small New England island community.

Capturing a great white weighing upward of 2 tons is no easy feat. The expedition used its 126-foot research vessel, designed with a special lift that can bring up 55,000 pounds.