Thalassophobia (n.) an intense fear of being in large bodies of water, fear of the vast emptiness of the sea.
Many people, myself admittedly included, have a fear of deep, open water. I mean come on, there are whales, rogue Soviet submarines, and who knows what else down there – not to mention the most fearsome beasts of the seas: sharks. Of all the sharks, none are perhaps as terrifying as the great white, a known man-eater responsible for taking the life of a young man in Massachusetts just this week. What could be scarier than a great white shark prowling around the open ocean? How about a whole community of great white sharks cavorting about together in a deep underwater lair unknown to marine biologists? What are they doing down there, anyway?
That’s exactly what an expedition led by scientists at Stanford University and the Monterey Bay Aquarium intends to find out after discovering a mysterious great white shark lair which they’re calling the “White Shark Cafe.” In a barren spot of the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii, scientists discovered a 160-mile-radius area where great whites appear to congregate each spring. To make the discovery, scientists placed satellite monitoring tags with locator beacons on a few dozen sharks and then monitored their movements.
To their surprise, each of the recovered tags showed the sharks not only congregating in this area but also demonstrating unusual diving behaviors down to depths which great whites were previously unknown to visit. The sharks remained in the White Shark Cafe throughout the spring, making odd “bouncing” dives down to 1,400 feet below the surface sometimes up to 140 times a day.
Scientists still aren’t sure why the sharks congregate in this spot. One theory is that these waters teem with life during these colder months, making them a prime spot for the sharks to feed in order to get through winter. Of course, like all new scientific discoveries, marine biologists will need to collect much more data on the sharks’ behavior before any conclusions can be drawn. One thing is sure, though: you won’t catch me diving or snorkeling in the Pacific anytime soon. Or ever.