We May Never Hear From 'Diplomat for the Ocean' Again

Battery on transmitter for Katharine the great white shark is beyond expected life, emitting weak pings
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2020 9:29 AM CDT
Famous Shark Waves What May Be a Last Goodbye
In this Aug. 23, 2016, photo, a juvenile male great white shark named Paumanok swims away after researchers tagged him off the point of Montauk, NY.   (Robert Snow/OCEARCH via AP)

Katharine, the great white shark with thousands of fans, has resurfaced for the first time in nearly a year. The 14-foot-long shark tagged as a juvenile off the coast of Cape Cod in August 2013 was last heard from off the coast of Charleston, SC, in May 2019. The following interval of silence, which had some wondering if the Twitter user had died, was interrupted by a single weak ping in March, per the New York Times. Then came three pings on April 4. Though the transmitter installed on Katharine's dorsal fin wasn't out of the water long enough to pinpoint a location, per TCPalm.com, an in-depth analysis suggests the shark named for Katharine Lee Bates, who wrote the verses to "America the Beautiful," was 200 miles off the coast of Virginia, according to OCEARCH, the nonprofit that tracks marine life.

Sharks can stay below the surface of the ocean for months on end, so perhaps Katharine is only shy. But it's more likely that her transmitter is running out of battery, as recent weak pings suggest. Gregory B. Skomal of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries notes a buildup of mussels and algae might also be messing with the device's antenna, per the Times. But a typical battery only lasts five years, and Katherine's is almost seven years old. That's bad news for the shark's nearly 62,000 Twitter followers, some of whom joked that Katharine was "practicing social distancing." People "just fell in love with her … the diplomat for the ocean," OCEARCH founder Chris Fischer tells the Times. Luckily, OCEARCH tracks plenty of other sharks, including a monster great white who pinged quite a distance east of Melbourne, Fla., on Monday. (More great white shark stories.)

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