Why we should love Lydia the 'UK-bound' great white shark

Mar 9, 2014

A great white shark is hanging around the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Scientists are hoping she will cross to the European side...

Great white shark

A GREAT WHITE SHARK swimming around the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, about 1,000 miles off the coast of Cornwall, is putting joy in the hearts of scientists and tabloid editors alike. So, should we be scared - or just a little bit fascinated?

What shark? Lydia is a great white shark who first came to scientists’ attention when they captured her off the coast of Florida and satellite-tagged her as part of the Ocearch research project.

Are we going to need a bigger boat?
No. At 4.4m-long, Lydia is fairly average for a female great white shark.

So what's the fuss about? Lydia might soon become the first great white shark to be recorded crossing the Atlantic in either direction. Although she is only 1,000 miles from the coast of the UK and 3,000 miles from the coast of Florida, she has to cross the Mid-Atlantic Ridge for her feat to be recognised. A first like this would be a major coup for Ocearch, which was established to gather data on the movements, biology and health of sharks for conservation purposes as well as for public safety and education, according to the BBC. Great white sharks are an endangered species.

Is it safe to go back into the water? At this time of year? Perhaps if you put a wetsuit on. As for whether Lydia is about to make an appearance in UK waters, The Scotsman calculates that, theoretically, Lydia could make it to Cornwall sometime next week if she swims flat out at 35mph.

Back in the real world, Jamie Oliver, the curator of Sea Life London Aquarium, told the Daily Star: “It wouldn’t surprise me if maybe she did just come for a look around British waters to see what food is available. The colder temperature of our seas won’t bother her too much as she’s swum across the Atlantic.”

He and other experts have also pointed out that Lydia is pretty close to a number of other countries in southern Europe and Africa. “Even if she does come to Britain, she is unlikely to stray too close to land,” he explained. “There’s never been any documented cases of great white sharks attacking anyone around the coast of the UK.” 

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