Chasing Great Whites

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How do you track sharks? With a ton of technology and seafaring knowledge. Why? Because learning their behavior might just save us all.

It’s 8 a.m. on a Tuesday in March and I’m shivering with a dozen strangers in a marina parking lot on Hilton Head. My three layers of borrowed long underwear, fleece and Gore-Tex barely shield me from unseasonably bitter winds. Knowing it will only be worse on the rough sea, I steel my resolve.

Suddenly, a brawny man in a seafaring rain bib and jacket best suited for a winter squall approaches us and announces that the conditions might be too dangerous for today’s expedition. The crowd collectively groans with disappointment, knowing that this once-in-a-lifetime experience may be stripped away by inopportune weather.

The brawny bibbed man is Chris Fischer, the founding chairman and expedition leader of Ocearch, a nonprofit at-sea laboratory that studies great white sharks—by pulling them onto their boat. While I have a debilitating fear of mimes, the opportunity to come face-to-face with 4,000 pounds of marine muscle is nothing short of exhilarating, not to mention rare. In fact, Ocearch’s custom hydraulic platform makes it the only vessel in existence that’s capable of safely lifting and supporting large marine animals for the purpose of research. And it’s just my luck that the organization’s 28th expedition has brought them to our coast.

Written and compiled by Andrea Goto. Photography by Beau Kester. 

For the full story, get the July/August 2017 issue here