Is Mary Lee the Great White Shark Coming to Visit New York?

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Are there any Airbnb options on the beach in New York?Photo: Courtesy of OCEARCH

Mary Lee has drifted along the East Coast for years. She’s never explained why she has traveled nearly 20,000 miles since leaving Cape Cod in September 2012, or why she seems content to merely make circles along the Acela Corridor. Mary Lee is currently exploring the Jersey Shore, and seems to be heading directly for New York City.  

She was unable to comment on whether she plans to visit for a few days or explain why she only has a first name, as she is currently underwater and only communicates through pings sent to OCEARCH every time her dorsal fin touches air. 

Mary Lee is a 16-foot, 3,456-pound great white shark.

Although Mary Lee is destined by biology to be taciturn, she has assembled quite the communications crew. There is OCEARCH, the shark nonprofit that tagged and named Mary Lee in 2012 and has been tracking her ever since. Mary Lee was named after the founding chair of the organization, Chris Fischer. “I was waiting and waiting for a special shark to name after her,” he said, according to the OCEARCH website, “and this is truly the most historic and legendary fish I have ever been a part of and it set the tone for Cape Cod.”

Mary Lee also has her own Twitter feed, which has more than 13,000 followers and specializes in corny jokes that would easily help the great white shark get a role as the unexpected class clown of the sea in a Finding Nemo sequel. She revealed that her crush on the shark from Jaws far outweighs her affections for the beefcake weather event in Sharknado, and showed she was a feminist by shaming those who commented on her weight. The person running the feed is not affiliated with OCEARCH; it’s instead run by a volunteer Paul Revere for Mary Lee’s pings, a Sheboygan Scanner for the waterbound. 

Great white sharks are definitely no stranger to New York. Historian William Zeisel Jr. wrote in Seaport magazine more than two decades ago, according to the New York Times, “Reliable accounts spanning more than a century, from 1760 to 1881, show that the Manhattan waterfront and the harbor were often infested with sharks, some weighing perhaps a ton.” In 1978, a shark fisherman in Montauk swore that “he stuck a harpoon into a shark as long as his boat (36 feet) and that it towed his boat for 13 hours, and then, for reasons perhaps less dramatic than those in Old Man in the Sea, he lost it.” Few of his friends believed him.

In the past few years, there has been an increase in great white sightings because there are more of them to be seen on the East Coast than there have been in years. In June 2014, three great white sharks were caught off the shores of New York City in one week. Shark scientists are incredibly excited by this news, given the role great white sharks play in controlling the populations of all other sea life. As Ellen Pikitch at Stony Brook University told the New York Times in 2008, “Every time a shark disappears it diminishes our life in some way.” Daily Intelligencer reached out to Pikitch, a “a certified shark-hugger,” to discuss Mary Lee, but she is currently “traveling extensively.”

If Mary Lee does continue up to New York, there’s no need to freak out — there have been only slightly more than 100 unprovoked great white shark attacks in the United States in the past century.

The worst thing Mary Lee could do is tweet a bad review of the city’s water quality. Daily Intelligencer reached out to NYC  & Company for what visitors who love the water — but probably want to avoid crowds — should do during their stay in the city. Sean Altberger recommended the city’s beaches, like the Rockaways, which have already proven a popular vacation spot for visiting great white sharks

He also listed kayaking on the Hudson and the Staten Island Ferry as other options, and sent along a link to an article about New York’s waterways that our visitor might enjoy, if anyone wants to pass it along to her. (It advises a trip to a part of Brooklyn that “looks like a cross between Walden Pond and duck-hunter porn.”)

One place Mary Lee should avoid? The subway, which has proven to be the final resting place of at least one of her species — either because it expired from delays, or was made an example of because of finspreading. 

Gotta love NYC...casual dead shark on the subway...#NYC

A photo posted by Brandon Sanchez (@brandon.m.sanchez) on

If Mary Lee is looking for a hot date, a stop in New York might be the perfect place to Tinder. A good shark is hard to find, as Ellen Pikitch noted a few years ago, riffing off advice from her mom. “She used to tell me not to cry because men were just like fish, and there were plenty more fish in the sea. Now I would have to say that mom was right about the guys, but wrong about the fish.”