Monterey, California- The first test of the camera that will be used to study white sharks during their mysterious annual meeting place White Shark Cafe will be carried out this summer. The idea is to make sure the camera will endure the 9-month observation and withstand the depth of the Sharks’ trip.
Researchers have records of a white shark migration where they travel to the Pacific Ocean about halfway between Mexico and Hawaii each winter. The place is known as ‘White Shark Cafe‘ and scientists have noticed that male sharks dive hundreds of feet below the surface. Male sharks continue to do this repeatedly, up to 150 times a day.
The investigation team is from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), and its goal is to collect video footage that will explain – for the first time in history – what white sharks do in the depth of that part of the Pacific Ocean.
The theory alleges sharks are either feeding, or mating, but attaching a miniature camera to a white shark’s fin will collect evidence of these animals routine.
The official MBARI’s website says that white shark research expert Sal Jorgensen was the one who started the idea of an investigation using a camera to solve the mystery of the White Shark Cafe.
— MARE (@MAREgroup) July 1, 2016
Expedition to White Shark Cafe could be a longshot
Jorgensen has studied animals since 2005, and in this opportunity, the mission is to tag a camera that can resist a 9-month trip. Video cameras have been used in the past with sharks, but only for a few days, and this is why scientist Jorgensen decided to partner with engineer Thom Maughan. Together, they intend to improve previously used cameras and create a resistant device for filming underwater for almost a year.
The new camera needs a series of engineering requirements for the long trip. It has to be small and easy to attach to a shark’s dorsal fin. It has to endure 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) dives and bursts of acceleration to speed up to 25 miles on hour. The battery has to power 10 hours of video recording and the internal data processing and storage systems. It also has to be programmable to record only when a shark makes the repeated dives because the trip lasts nine months.
Alliances must be made
To make the camera possible, Maughan is working with other engineers, including Desert Star and Custom Tracking Solutions.
A prototype camera is already developed and has been tested in in coastal waters. 1 to 5-day tests have been carried and based on the results, the camera has had improvements, although the best way to attach the recording device to the shark’s fin is not figured out yet.
During 2016 summer, Maughan plans are to connect the camera to one of MBARI’s underwater robots to make more test on the prototype. This robot is an autonomous underwater vehicle that will perform deep dives to simulate the white shark’s behavior in the Pacific Ocean. The use of the robot will test the camera software that will turn the camera on only at key moments during the Sharks journey.
The goal of these trials is to find a way that the tag stays on the sharks’ fin and to change the camera mode from sleep (for about a month) while the shark goes to the White Shark Café. When the shark reaches the shark meeting spot, the camera will be activated when changes in the swimming patterns are detected, meaning the camera will be recording when the male sharks start to dive down 800 feet (250 meters).
When the shark goes back to the surface, the camera will go back into sleeping mode until it returns to the California coast in August or September. When the camera reaches the coast, it would automatically release itself from the shark’s fin and send a signal to researchers on shore, who would go the sea to recover ti.
The experiment will start in December or January when most white sharks are leaving the California Coast to the White Shark Café. The scientist will go to one white shark hotspot to tag the shark that will show the world what do they do in the depth of the ocean.
Jal Jorgensen has worked in other investigations involving cameras tagged to sharks. Previous researchers include records of their geographic location and the depth of their dives, which explain how scientists know they go down up to 800 feet. Other experiments. Other investigations include high-frequency transmissions sent by a device in the shark’s dorsal fin that made possible the tracking of this species when they approached listening stations close to shore.
— MARE (@MAREgroup) June 30, 2016
A different method used to study sharks is a 3D motion-sensing tag designed to be swallowed by sharks to obtain visual evidence of their feeding activities.Then the device was naturally regurgitated, and then, scientists can use the stored data.
White shark season started last week on the coast of the U.S.
The first shark of the Orleans white shark season was tagged at Nauset Beach last Friday, June 24. Members of the Division of Marine Fisheries marked a 12-foot-long white shark.
These efforts are part of a study, carried by the state and the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy that seeks to know more about these animals that have come to Cape on a regular basis in the past years.