Valentine's Day has long since passed, but for the great white sharks off the Outer Banks, the romance, albeit violent, is just getting started.
Experts have long suspected that the sharks congregate off the coast of North Carolina in order to mate, but they've never had real proof. But that's all about to change.
OCEARCH's Expedition Carolinas is a groundbreaking research expedition set to launch from Wilmington Friday with the goal of finally determining why the giant sharks keep gathering in the area from February through April.
The News & Observer reports that the nonprofit will spend 21 days capturing sexually mature great white sharks between Cape Lookout and the Frying Pan Shoals. Among other things, scientists will run blood tests to identify elevated hormone and sperm levels.
Wrangling apex predators in the treacherous stretch of ocean known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic won't be an easy task. Even though no one has ever found a great white shark mating ground before, researchers are confident their efforts will pay off.
"It doesn't surprise us that the white shark is putting in us in difficult position to solve a 400-million-year-old puzzle of where they mate. Nothing they do has made it easy for any scientist over the course of the last many decades," OCEARCH founder Chris Fischer told The News & Observer. "If it was easy, it would have been done already."
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According to OCEARCH, data will be collected by 42 scientists from 28 research organizations for 23 different science projects, including a study on how sharks react to being temporarily caught.
But the thing about sharks is, they're not easily caught.
"Even if we catch just one, the expedition will be a success," Fischer told The News & Observer.
"Everything is pointing to mating being the reason they come here. But I don't want people to think it (the expedition) is a make-or-break thing," he added. "That's not the case. We'll learn what they're doing there regardless of what it is."
Good luck out there, y'all!