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Caterpillar’s Generator Powers Unique Lift on Board a Shark-Catching Boat

It's no Fish Story when extra power is needed to lift a 2,000 pound Great White Shark from the ocean.

Fri April 19, 2013 - National Edition
Mary Reed

After several days spent on windy, rough seas, the crew and researchers of the research vessel OCEARCH finally spotted a great white shark.

At 2,000 lbs. the 14.5 ft. female shark was expertly caught, studied, tagged and released less than a mile off the coast of Jacksonville, Fla. — the first of her species to be satellite-tagged south of Cape Cod, Mass.

The shark was named Lydia in honor of Lydia Moss Bradley, founder of Bradley University which, along with Caterpillar, were described as “pillars of the Peoria community” by Diane Lantz-Rickard, Caterpillar global brand marketing manager.

“The organizations have a relationship that goes back decades. So when the OCEARCH team was looking for a strong, pioneering and philanthropic female, — Lydia was a great match given the connections to Caterpillar and its hometown of Peoria, Illinois, “ she added.

The boat involved in the search is the 126 ft. long OCEARCH, fitted with a custom built 75,000 hydraulic lift, for which power is provided by a Caterpillar generator. In January Milton CAT in New Bedford, Mass., serviced the lift for routine maintenance. Currently, the lift is used for the sole purpose of raising sharks out of the water in a controlled and safe manner, while also serving as the ideal platform on which science teams can conduct their research.

While aboard, Lydia was fitted with four different devices, including a real-time satellite (SPOT) transmitter providing near real-time tracking of the shark’s position anywhere it travels for better understanding of movements, migration and preferred habitats. Recent great white sharks tagged by OCEARCH with SPOT tags, such as Mary Lee, have journeyed over 5,000 mi. in less than 6 months — exploring areas previously unknown for great whites.

In addition to a SPOT tag, Lydia was fitted with an accelerometry device (accelerometer) recording fine-scale movements of the shark after release and to assess health and swimming patterns, a pop-off data logger (PSAT) providing information on data on geolocation, depth, and ambient temperature of the shark for a period of months after release, and an acoustic tag so that the shark can be detected if it swims near an underwater hydrophone in a worldwide system of acoustic sensors.

Chris Fischer, founding chairman and expedition leader of OCEARCH said,

“Caterpillar has provided the opportunity for us to become the greatest explorers of our time. It’s now up to us to make the most of the opportunity. As my father always said, potential is interesting, performance is everything.”

“With Cat global dealer network we can now operate anywhere, any time in the world. It’s up to us to maximize our our impact.”

More than a half dozen studies, including an ultrasound to determine whether or not the shark was pregnant and the collection of parasites, were carried out during Lydia’s time on the lift, during which she was kept comfortable with water constantly poured over her gills.

“Caterpillar is sponsoring these expeditions because sustainable progress is important to Caterpillar, be it through developing more fuel efficient engines or recycling at our facilities. Sustainable solutions are also the driving force behind the daily work of OCEARCH founder Chris Fischer and his team. From a sustainability perspective, the partnership makes sense. OCEARCH‚s significant work is advancing our knowledge and sustaining the waters that are so vital to people and economies around the world,” Lantz-Rickard said.

“What’s more, OCEARCH is a Caterpillar customer. For the past five years, Cat marine engines and generator sets have reliably propelled and powered the OCEARCH on expeditions around the globe. As the team sails from port to port, the Cat global dealer network has consistently provided solid service and support, regardless of how remote the team was. Chris doesn’t have to be shown the benefit of Caterpillar products or how the dealer network is a true business partner — he understands the value both bring to his operation because he’s experienced it for years. In addition to funding OCEARCH’s research expeditions, Chris and his team will help us showcase the Caterpillar value proposition to potential customers,” she added.

Tagging great white sharks such as Lydia contributes to OCEARCH research on great white shark migration, health and behavioural matters. Thus data collected includes such information as juvenile and adult shark behaviour and birth and mating patterns in order to gain more knowledge about the species to help protect and conserve their dwindling numbers.

As OCEARCH, whose name is a combination of ocean and research, has pointed out, sharks play a crucial role in the marine ecosystem, in that lesser numbers of these predators could mean a domino effect threatening to unbalance the marine food chain, for example by permitting a prey species lower in the chain to breed unchecked.

The research expeditions, pairing top shark scientists and fishermen, generates unprecedented data on apex predators. Beyond bringing them together, OCEARCH represents a collaborative shark research effort between scientists from various institutions, with the aim of generating data faster as a team than would be possible were each researcher working separately.

Expedition Jacksonville was the sixteenth successful expedition for OCEARCH and its unique collaborative team, and the first under the new Caterpillar partnership that will enable eight additional expeditions globally. Research is immediately made available to the public without cost on the OCEARCH Global Shark Tracker at


OCEARCH is a non-profit organization with a global reach for unprecedented research on the ocean’s giants, supporting leading researchers and institutions seeking to attain groundbreaking data on the biology and health of sharks, in conjunction with research on shark life history and migration. In addition to enabling research at sea,

Caterpillar’s support of the OCEARCH vessel and team enables generation of data required to complete critical studies while educating students and the public through the Global Shark Tracker.

For more information, visit

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