The Christian Science Monitor

The captainless research vessel

The regular patrons of the White Shark Café have had some company lately.

In March, two autonomous robots, called Saildrones, departed from California en route to the “Café,” a mysterious stretch of water in the middle of the Pacific Ocean where the sharks are known to congregate. This week, they were joined by a ship carrying 14 scientists and a vast array of ecological monitoring instruments. Researchers know little about this region – and why it attracts the massive predators – but these reddish-orange sailboats are a crucial step toward learning more. 

Their collective journey began with a discovery by Barbara Block, a biologist at the Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University in Pacific Grove, Calif. Dr. Block’s team had been tagging white sharks for seven years

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