Carl Fiester, E’14, calls his December expe­di­tion to Guadalupe Island “the cra­ziest adven­ture I have ever been on.”

Fiester and his team at the Woods Hole Oceano­graphic Insti­tu­tion spent 10 days tag­ging and tracking great white sharks that pop­u­late the island’s waters off Mexico’s west coast using an autonomous under­water vehicle that the young alumnus helped design. What the team came away with was some intense and eye-​​opening footage of great white shark behavior.

The expedition’s footage and the Woods Hole team were fea­tured Monday night on Jaws of the Deep as part of the Dis­covery Channel’s annual Shark Week series.

The waters were com­pletely shark infested,” says Fiester, a grad­uate of Northeastern’s mechan­ical engi­neering pro­gram. “At one point, a 16-​​foot female shark swam right up to our boat.”

Fiester was one of three engi­neers on the trip, having helped design the newest ver­sion of the REMUS SharkCam AUV that can track sharks to a depth of 600 meters. The orig­inal SharkCam—which was also used to cap­ture footage—can track sharks up to 100 meters below the water surface.

The waters were com­pletely shark infested. At one point, a 16-​​foot female shark swam right up to our boat.”
—Carl Fiester, E’14

Fiester said he enjoys working to solve the var­ious chal­lenges of his job, from trying to deter­mine the best way to outfit the nose of the AUV so the vehicle can work effi­ciently to making sure the two vehi­cles follow the sharks that have been tagged.

We don’t have a live stream as the vehi­cles are under­water,” he explained. “So it is kind of hard to tell what you will get until the vehicle comes back to the sur­face. It is absolutely exhil­a­rating.” In some cases, that could include bite marks or scratches from great whites that got a little to close to the SharkCams.

Having dreamed of working in marine sci­ence for most of his life, Fiester, a Cape Cod res­i­dent, was able to immerse him­self in the field through Northeastern’s co-​​op pro­gram. His second co-​​op as an under­grad­uate stu­dent was at Hydroid, a marine robotics com­pany. But while he enjoyed his time at Hydroid, Fiester wanted his third co-​​op to focus on the research and devel­op­ment aspect of marine sci­ence and engi­neering. So he found a co-​​op at Woods Hole on Cape Cod and then returned there to work full time after graduating.

This was my first time working with sharks, and that is some cool stuff, but what is inter­esting to me is being able to make sure the vehi­cles follow the acoustic tag on the shark and see where it is going to go,” Fiester said. “That is an incred­ibly hard problem to solve and we are the only ones doing it.”