Scientists intrigued by great white shark off Grand Strand coast

A great white shark that researchers have named Mary Lee has captured the public's imagination all along the East Coast.

She is 16 feet long, weighs 3,500 lbs. and is swimming around just off the Grand Strand.

The latest satellite ping for Mary Lee shows she was about a mile or so off the coast of North Myrtle Beach Wednesday afternoon.

Like so many others tracking the progress of Mary Lee, Coastal Carolina University marine science professor Dan Abel knows she's out there somewhere, and he admits to being tempted to jump in a boat to try to find her.

But Abel says the scientists who tagged Mary Lee want to see what she's doing without human interference.

"Much as I would have loved to have seen as magnificent a beast as she was, she is, I knew better," Abel said.

Abel and his students have tagged sharks, too, though not with the same kind of sophisticated satellite transmitter that scientists from the Ocearch ( research organization have attached to Mary Lee's dorsal fin to follow her migration.

For example, a 9-foot lemon shark that Abel's students caught in Winyah Bay was later found off the coast of Florida.

"We get that information back, it's simply a little bit lower tech," said Abel.

Abel says people are fascinated by Mary Lee's journey because humans have always been intrigued by monsters and great whites are often depicted as man-eaters.

There is so much that even the most knowledgeable researchers don't know about great white sharks that finding out where Mary Lee is in the ocean and where she is headed should help them answer many baffling questions.

"Why they're going where they are going. Are they going to eat? We don't know where they mate. We don't know where they give birth, so these kinds of questions can ultimately be answered when we see where the animals are migrating to," Abel said.

Instead of being scared a great white is off our coastline, Abel says we should be glad. The species is so important to the ocean's ecosystem, it helps secure the delicate balance for many other fishes in the sea.

Click here track her along with us.