|Although Myrtle Beach isn't a premier collecting location, it sure is fun finding shark teeth there while you're on vacation. This blog post hopefully will help you.|
Let's start off with the right tools for the job. The most important tool is... (drum roll inserted here) ...ready? Your eyes. That's right, your eyes. You need to discern the shapes and characteristics of shark teeth from the gazillions shell fragments that you may encounter on the beach. After that, additional tools are up to you.
|The most important tool that you'll need are your peepers...learn what the teeth look like and their characteristics and you'll find them. There are other useful tools, but these are the best.|
|OK, well some of us, like me, need a little help...|
Also, regarding my collecting tool, or collecting in general here. I pick up just about anything that is different than a shell, or that I think is a fossil or shark tooth. I'd say that about ninety percent of what I pick up is not a shark tooth. Still, I keep checking. Every now and then, I pick up something that I don't think is a shark tooth, and it turns out to be one!
|When I see something that I think might be a shark tooth or something else of interest, I use my "pick up tool" to bring it closer to eye level and save my back from a future back ache. If it's a small object, I grab everything around it too.|
|Well, here's a fossil nerd if I ever saw one! I may look goofy, but my feet are comfortable and I have everything that I need to collect as long as my family permits me to do it.|
A few years ago, I left my resort hotel and walked quite a ways collecting. I had two bottles of water and it had to be well over a hundred degrees out there with no wind at all. I ran out of water half way on my return trip. Fortunately, I ran into my soon to be friend Carl from Northeast Pennsylvania.
Carl walked up to talk to me to ask about what I was up to, like so many people do each year. After explaining what I was doing and showing him my finds, he offered me an ice cold beverage. It was a Yuengling to be exact.
Now I'm not a big beer drinker, although I love the taste of a good beer now and then, drinking water is far better for you health wise to prevent heat stroke, but, let me tell you friends...that Yuengling was like heaven! Ice cold and hit the spot. It cooled me down instantly. And, fortunately, my walk back wasn't all that far. So, not only will you have fun collecting and possibly gain some attention, you'll make friends along the way by nice folks like Carl. I see him every year at the same spot during my vacation and he flags me down to say hi, offering me a Yuengling each time. I'm forever thankful to Carl for that ice cold beverage. Thanks Carl!!!!
As far as techniques go, I see other collectors sifting the shell beds or simply using their hands to sort through the beach material either by fanning the shell bed or digging a hole and allowing the sides to cave in exposing teeth. You may find other tools successful as well, like trowels, rakes, shovels, etc. They may all assist you in finding fossils on the beach as they might at other locations. I prefer a lot less work while I'm on vacation, so surface collecting for me is the ticket.
So next, you may ask, where would I find shark teeth at Myrtle Beach? My answer is, on the beach. I'm not saying that to be smart, but they're there, and they can be anywhere. I think that the odds of you finding shark teeth increase when you find shelly material on the beach as the teeth could be mixed in. But really, any wave can uncover one in the sand or amongst the shells. Or, the wind could expose a fossil well above the tide line, perhaps where someone sunbathed just hours earlier. Or, perhaps someone built a sand castle and the waves are destroying the fortress, exposing teeth and other shells exposed from someone's sand castle building efforts.
|Sand castle ruins may cause tears from the young folks who build them once they are destroyed by the mighty ocean, but fossil collectors may find tears of joy if the exposed fossils result in a good find!|
|This sign says it all about the creek mouths along the beach. It's OK to collect, but I wouldn't want any of this water in my eyes or mouth. I'd be careful about subjecting exposed sores or open wounds to this water as well.|
Massive shell beds aren't easy to search, so take your time. You may find it easier to search where the waves have washed the material down, where shark teeth stand out more against the sand, making them easier to see. Once you become familiar with the shapes and other characteristics of shark teeth, you will be able to see them amongst the shells.
The shell beds always seem to be sorted with objects of similar size, and lay on the beach in zones. At low tide, you may wish to search all of the zones or simply follow one down the beach. How you approach this is simply up to you. Keep in mind that there is no way that you can cover the entire beach and find every tooth. It's just too massive. So, pick a spot and focus on that area.
At low tide, if the water isn't moving shell material, my approach is to follow a likely zone traveling slowly parallel to the surf until I find a tooth or some sort of indication that fossils are there. Once I find a tooth, I switch gears and move perpendicular to the surf, moving up toward the high tide line while searching with my eyes for teeth across zones. After I reach the high tide line, I move a bit in one direction to my right or left, and travel back down toward the water, slowly moving and sweeping my eyes across the shell material keeping and eye out for teeth. I basically work about a fifty or hundred yard stretch in a grid like manner this way. If you have trouble finding teeth, slow down.
Now that we've discussed where you might find teeth, let's take a look at some very basic anatomy of a shark tooth and the characteristics of fossilized shark teeth that will help you discern the teeth from the scads of shell fragments on the beach. I'm not going to post all of the different types or shapes in this post, but will do so in a future post. Instead, I'll point out things that will help you find teeth in general. First, all shark teeth that are whole and not broken have a root and a blade with a distinct cutting edge.
|This great white shark tooth that I found a year ago demonstrates what all shark teeth have in common, no matter the shape. Whole teeth all have roots, blades and cutting edges (along the entire length or only partially along the blade).|
Most of the teeth that you'll find will be broken, perhaps without the root, or only one lobe of the root. Most will be small, about a half inch or less in size. And most will be worn, although you may find a good many teeth that are in good shape. My tip for you is to pick them all up until you learn what a tooth is or what a tooth is not. If you can spot the small or broken teeth, then you'll be able to spot whole or large teeth, either buried or completely exposed.
Once you learn what is a tooth and what is not, you'll spot many more teeth. You'll achieve what my daughter and I refer to as getting "the eye". Just remember, teeth have cutting edges, shells do not. Teeth, even broken ones, are almost perfectly designed as teeth, shells are irregular and imperfectly formed (no offense meant to shell collectors, but from a shark tooth hunting perspective being that teeth are perfectly designed to cut while shells are not).
|This extremely worn great white tooth still exhibits the traits of a tooth. Notice the distinct cutting edge and regularity of the blade. Even broken teeth exhibit the near perfect "complexion" of a blade.|
Also, since the majority of teeth that you'll find will be black, focus on that color at first. Then, once you find a few shark teeth and begin to get the hang of it, pay more attention to the shapes and other characteristics than just the color. Shark teeth also tend to shine a bit more than shells, perhaps because the enamel on the teeth is so smooth, the reflective properties are a bit better than shells. Teeth that are wet tend to be a bit easier to see also.
Here are some pics before and after the find, to give you an idea of what you may be looking at.
|Where's the tooth? When they lay on sand with nothing around them, they're pretty easy to spot.|
|This is a typical tooth. Small, maybe a bit broken, but still, a tooth. Learn to distinguish teeth from non-teeth, and you'll find the unbroken and larger teeth in the future. Get "the eye"!|
|Can you spot the tooth here? It's partially buried.|
|Here it is!|
|Yep, it's a tooth. It looks like a bull shark or similar requiem shark lower tooth.|
|This one is even harder to see. I've given you a hint though!|
|Here it is!|
|It's another requiem shark lower tooth! Make sure that you check things out that are partially buried, they could be a shark tooth.|
|It's a small worn megalodon, or a "meg", tooth! Meg teeth aren't common, but it's possible to find them at Myrtle Beach. Sometimes you'll find fragments that are difficult to recognize as teeth.|
|There's a large tooth amongst the shells. Can you see it?|
|This one is very difficult to see because it's not black as are many of the other fossils. The gray coloration blends closely with the colors of the shells. What set this one apart was the shine of the enamel and the general shape.|
|It's a tooth from a great white shark. Too bad the root has been broken off. Still, this is a nice find at Myrtle Beach.|
|Here's another tooth found high on the beach. A jogger or hiker stepped right over it!|
|Here's the tooth. This great white shark tooth is pitch black. It has a nice tip and almost all of the serrations, but the root has been partially broken off. Still, a great find!|
|There's a meg fragment amongst the shells in this picture. Can you spot it?|
|The meg fragment looks like a rock. Several folks that I spoke to about this tooth mentioned that they'd toss it away not knowing that it was a shark tooth at all.|
|Here's the labial view of that tooth. Labial view refers to the side of the tooth that faces away from the sharks mouth. If you see this as a shark approaches, you still have a chance to get away!|
But, when you think about it, maybe when I give teeth away, good collecting Karma will come my way. It does seem that when I give a tooth away, I find a replacement that is as good or better. So, when you become adept at finding shark teeth, keep that in mind. You'll pass on the hobby, make some friends on the beach, and bring a smile to someone's face, and in return, maybe you'll get some good toothin' karma!
Hopefully this info will help you find shark teeth at Myrtle Beach. If you've never collected them, it's a great way to spend some time with your family doing something fun on the beach. I've spent countless hours with my daughter looking for shark teeth at Myrtle Beach. She has the eagle eye for them for sure, and even though she's now an adult finding her way through her college life, I still treasure my quality time while vacationing with her at the Beach.
My next post will lay out the basic shapes and types of teeth and fossils that you'll find to help you identify what they are, so stay tuned.