HomeOutdoorsNews12-foot great white shark ‘Ironbound’ tracked near Georgia coast

12-foot great white shark ‘Ironbound’ tracked near Georgia coast

by Caitlin Berard
Great white shark similar to Ironbound
(Photo by Whitepointer via Getty Images)

When you think of wildlife migration, the first animal that likely comes to mind is birds – and it makes sense! Every year, birds in V formation move through the sky in droves, their migration patterns clearly visible. What we don’t see are the countless great white sharks moving up and down the coast throughout the year as they migrate with the seasons.

Great white sharks actually have incredibly long migrations, traveling all the way from Canada to Florida on the east coast and from California to Hawaii on the west. Like many of us, sharks prefer warmer areas in the chilly fall and winter months. Come spring and summer, they return to the cool waters of Canada.

So, now that the weather is warming up, great whites are making the long trek from Florida to Canada. And thanks to the work of ocean research organization OCEARCH, we know the exact location of quite a few.

One large boy, a 12-foot, 4-inch mammoth by the name of Ironbound, pinged off the coast of Georgia near the South Carolina border just this week.

Back in January, the great white was exploring the coasts of Fort Lauderdale and Miami, then he enjoyed spring break in the Bahamas (where he appeared in April), and now he’s on his way north again.

Ironbound isn’t as large as he seems – at least, not for a great white

Now, a 12-foot, nearly 1,200-pound shark might seem gigantic – and, in fairness, it is. Twice the height of a relatively tall human isn’t small by any means. Believe it or not, however, Ironbound isn’t that big for a great white shark. In fact, he’s perfectly average.

The largest great white on record was a female named Deep Blue, a 20-foot leviathan weighing in at an estimated 2.5 tons. On average, though, a female great white is around 15 feet long, while males are slightly smaller at 12 feet.

Great white shark migration patterns vary

In addition to seeking out more comfortable waters in winter, Ironbound and his fellow great white sharks migrate for another reason – they’re following their food! When fish journey to warmer climates for winter, sharks must follow if they want to eat.

Mating also plays a role in the movement of the cartilaginous carnivores. If a mama shark is carrying pups or egg cases, she might venture inshore to provide a safer environment for her coming babies.

Ultimately, there’s no one size fits all route or timetable for great white shark migration. They go when and where the current (and their favorite snack) takes them.

“We often see white sharks move down from Canadian waters to Florida. However, this is not a ‘hard and fast’ rule,” Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, told Newsweek. “White sharks are quite large and, as a result, have considerable thermal inertia.”

“This means they don’t ‘warm up’ or ‘cool down’ as much as would smaller animals,” he continued. “So temperature per se is less of a driver of movement than is food availability. If you look at multiple white shark tracks in the Northwest Atlantic, you will see that they are all over the place.”

Using its tagging and tracking system, OCEARCH has followed Ironbound for the past four years. In that time, the great white shark has traveled an incredible 15,145 miles. To put that into perspective, it takes just under 25,000 miles to travel all the way around the world.