Every year, legions of great white sharks leave their coastal habitats for what researchers call the Shark Café, a remote region of the Pacific Ocean halfway between Mexico and Hawaii, where they spend the winter and spring. What they do there isn’t entirely known, though it may be somewhat of a romance hot spot. Soon, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute may get a better idea with the help of high-definition cameras attached to sharks’ dorsal fins, reports Discovery’s Seeker.
The institute is designing what they call the Shark Café Camera, a small, sensor-equipped video camera that attaches to a shark’s upper fin and tracks its movements and behaviors.
To create the GoPro of scientific shark trackers, researchers have repurposed ReplayXD cameras typically used in extreme sports. They have to stay attached to the sharks for long periods of time and work at depths of up to 4921 feet—unlike an actual GoPro, which one intrepid filmmaker attached to a hammerhead shark last summer, but which wouldn't survive a great white's deepest dives. Triggered to turn on when sharks execute rapid dives from the surface of the water to deep water, the current prototype records high-def footage at 30 frames for second for 24 hours at a time. (For reference, most movies are shot at 24 frames per second.) The battery only lasts for 10 hours, but solar power will help the cameras eek out a few more moments of shark footage.
MBARI researchers will equip sharks with the fin cameras starting in December and January, and are designed to detach from the sharks in August and September of 2017. They’ll float to the surface of the water, where they can be found using satellites, if everything goes right. When the researchers recover the footage, they’ll finally be able to describe what it is that sharks are doing during their time at the Shark Café, finally determining whether it’s a place to grab a snack or meet a cutie.
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