Researchers capture video of season’s first great white encounter

She was a beauty — and they captured her on video.

Researchers posted a video of their first encounter with a great white shark this season. They named the animal “Freckles” for the distinctive white spots on her face.

The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, a non-profit group that works with the state to study the marine predators, shared the 25-second clip on YouTube, giving viewers an up-close look at the shark’s features as she glided through the water Monday.

“The key to our research is to get as much of the shark as possible, and take footage of both sides of it,” said Cynthia Wigren, president of the conservancy.


Researchers send a boat out on the waters off Cape Cod twice a week during the summer months in hopes of encountering great whites. If they run into one of the sharks, they steer the vessel toward the shark and then dip a GoPro camera into the water to document its dorsal fin, caudal fin, and gill slits.

“We look at the gill slits, where the color changes from gray to white. Every shark has a unique pattern there — it’s sort of like their fingerprint,” said Wigren.

While they typically capture two cameras-worth of footage, they share only a fraction of it with the public. The rest is pored over by state marine fisheries biologist John Chisholm, back on land.

Chisholm documents each encounter, identifying key characteristics on the sharks’ bodies, so researchers don’t log the same shark twice in their database.

“The more sharks we see, the harder that task becomes. It’s a very tedious process. For Chisholm, mentally, there are things that stick out in his mind. This shark had spots around her face, like freckles, so he named her that,” Wigren said.

Last year, researchers spotted 68 sharks and logged information on each encounter.


Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.