FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. -- An animal that strikes fear into beachgoers is looming off our coast right now. A great white shark has come to town.
Her name is Mary Lee. She's 16 feet long, 3,400 pounds, and the latest visitor to the beaches of North Florida.
Beachgoer Karen Stewart said, "That's awesome. Just amazing."
Researchers studying Mary Lee got a signal from her just before 8 a.m. Thursday off Fernandina Beach. That signal came from a tracking device on her dorsal fin.
NOAA Biologist Dr. John Carlson said, "When the fin breaks the surface, it will send a signal to a satellite. And the satellite will send a signal to the scientist and let him know, by GPS location, where the animal is."
Dr. Carlson says its not unusual to see great whites off the Florida coast this time of year. They like to spend the winter in warmer waters. But in a town where people enjoy the water year round, should beachgoers be worried? He said, "Try to avoid certain areas. Areas where people are fishing, it's generally not a good idea to go swimming. "
He says a little common sense can go a long way. Give Mary Lee her space and let her enjoy her Florida vacation. Wayne and Sally Williams say they'll do just that. "That's their area out there, and this is our area up here," said Mr. Williams said with a laugh. "I don't want to bother them. And I don't want them bothering me."
Mary Lee was tagged in Cape Cod in September. She was named after the fisherman's mother. More sightings off Florida are expected. They're common this time of year, and again in the Spring, when the sharks head back up North.
You can track Mary Lee yourself and learn more about the research being done by visiting, http://sharks-ocearch.verite.com/