17-foot great white shark’s mysterious disappearance takes odd turn in mid-Atlantic

The odd disappearance of one of the largest great white sharks ever tagged in the Northwest Atlantic just got a lot more mysterious.

Satellite tracking indicated the 17-foot, 2-inch shark vanished April 11, just after crossing the mid-Atlantic Ridge.

But a secondary satellite tag (called a PSAT) shows the cunning apex predator circled back and traveled 1,000 nautical miles before being detected, according to the nonprofit OCEARCH. The shark, named Nukumi, has reappeared weeks later off the coast of Canada.

What makes her trek all the more remarkable is the stealth involved: SPOT tagged sharks show up on satellite tracking when their dorsal fin breaks the surface for at least 90 seconds, OCEARCH says.

Nukumi hasn’t done that for more than six weeks.

“Her PSAT (tag) is continuing to upload data to us via satellite, and once it all comes in we should be able to reconstruct her track,” OCEARCH Communications Specialist Paige Finney told McClatchy News. “We are hoping she starts coming to the surface more soon and we start getting pings from her SPOT tag again.”

Nukumi vanished in mid-April while making a remarkable trip into deep water that ended 2,000 miles off North Carolina.

OCEARCH has been closely following her movements, because only one other great white shark has been tracked crossing the mid-Atlantic Ridge, experts say.

It is suspected female white sharks make the trip while gestating, but that doesn’t explain why the 3,541-pound Nukumi suddenly stopped going to the surface.

OCEARCH founder Chris Fischer expressed concerns in an April 15 tweet.

“While #Nukumi track is exciting, I’m terrified waiting for her next ping,” he wrote. “If she continues (east) she will enter some of the most heavily commercially fished waters in the world. Global foreign fishing fleets are heavily fishing W Africa. #nervous.”

Nukumi was dubbed a “Queen of the Ocean” after being captured Oct. 2, off Nova Scotia. The battery in her tracker should last five years.

Her disappearance came after being tracked for 5,570 miles. Much of that time was spent off North Carolina’s Outer Banks, which are believed to be a white shark mating ground.