Gifts of the Sea

by Dec 8, 2020History, South Brunswick

The search for beach strand shark teeth is eye-straining and frustrating … or not!

Today’s the day! I’m going to get to the beach early before the crowds and find some shark teeth. Readers of the Ocean Isle Beach Bums Facebook page report consistent success near the pier. There have even been photos of 7-inch-long extinct Megalodon teeth covering the palms of lucky searchers’ hands. But the truth is, I’ve lived at the North Carolina shore for 37 years and haven’t found a tooth. I haven’t found a single solitary tooth on OIB’s strand in the three years I have been here. So, what’s the problem? And what’s the secret?

I put the question to the Beach Bums site, and as difficult as it is for me to find shark teeth, it is just as hard to get folks to give up their methods on Facebook.

Ocean Isle Beach NC Shark Tooth Find

Thankfully, one of the site’s friendliest followers, Mike Sutton, offered a big helpful hint. If you are hunting for shark teeth, he said, you can’t be searching for shells at the same time. “Dark triangles – have to pick each one up or at least bend and look. Lol it’s the coolest thing when you find your first one. Then each time after that, you know you can find them.” Well, that sounded like the Wisdom of Solomon to me, and something I did not know.

I struck the information motherlode when Betsy Ussery Saintsing took the bait and divulged her best technique. I’d been admiring her beautiful photo posts over the years and was praying she’d respond.

“I’m obsessed with finding shark teeth. I’ve found over 5,000 on OIB! This method nets the most teeth for me…

“Look for patches of shells on the beach. Looking at a tide chart, determine (guess) when the tide will rise enough that the water will reach the shell beds. Stand in the water below the shells and watch for shark teeth to be washed out of the shells.

“Most of the teeth on OIB are shiny jet black when wet. Shark teeth are lighter than seashells so they are more easily lifted and rinsed out of the shells,” she shared. “When there’s lots of shell beds on the beach I can find over 100 teeth in a day.”

I can’t wait to try that. But in the meantime, I followed Sutton’s advice and tried to cancel out viewing shells while I walked the beach and just looked for dark triangles.

Shark Tooth Find Necklace NC

One day a few weeks ago I was ending a 5-mile trek and spotted nada. I was about a hundred yards from finishing the walk at Beaufort Street on the west end when I saw something unusual. It was black and a bit rounded, but had a triangular tip. Surely a broken oyster shell, I thought, and walked past it. But I had a nagging feeling, so I turned around and picked it up. I still thought it was an oyster shell and kept rubbing away the sand. And that’s when I noticed smooth shiny striations and the place where the tooth cemented to the gums. I had never seen a shark tooth like this before. But, dang, I had finally found one!

I called my friend Fulton Allen of OIB to help me identify it. He’s an expert diver and collector of shark teeth he’s found at the bottom of seas and rivers. He told me I done good — a rare find indeed for the beaches. I had collected the lateral tooth of an extinct Crow Shark, which lived between 65.5 to 145.5 million years ago. It was the same era as the dinosaur Tyrannosaurus Rex. Older than a Megalodon but only 10-feet long, its tooth is about the size of a quarter, but big enough to spin my imagination and leave me wowed over the ancientness of God’s creation. Every time I hold it, I ponder the impossible but real connectedness of my being to the beginnings of time. Quite a gift.

And now that you know how to do it, too (thanks Betsy Ussery Saintsing and Mike Sutton), I hope you find your special gift by the sea.