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Renz, M. (2002). Megalodon Hunting the Hunter. Lehigh Acres, FL:     Paleo Press.

Back in 2001 when Mark Renz was writing Hunting the Hunter he asked me to write two sections on Diving for Megalodon Teeth for his new book. You can read what I wrote for Hunting The Hunter below. It is taken from the South Carolina section of Chapter 7.

Fossil Finding Tips

“Currents in rivers are constantly uncovering fossils and then covering them back up with sand, mud and gravel,” says fossil diver Bill Eberlein. “One day a diver may not find anything, and the next day the same spot may yield a six inch Megalodon tooth.

“When two creeks or rivers come together, swirling currents can create deep areas in the bottom of the river,” he says. “You may be in an area where the depth is a constant 10-20 feet deep and suddenly come to a spot that drops to 40-60 feet in depth. As a fossil along the sides of a hole becomes uncovered by currents, it can slide down the bank and settle to the bottom of the hole. In one hole, a diver can be rewarded with a diverse variety of fossils from multiple time periods. It is not uncommon to find a 10,000 year-old mammoth tooth resting within inches of a 5 million year-old Meg tooth.

One method for locating new sites that works well for Eberlein and and his dive buddy Todd Kline, is to study navigational charts. Along the east coast between North Carolina and Florida there are hundreds of rivers and creeks, and thousands of points where they connect.

When studying charts, Eberlien and Kline look for three things. First they focus on areas where there is a Y in a river.

Secondly, they look for a deep spot near that Y. The swirling currents can create a deep hole. They also look for deep spots along the outer edge of a curve in a river. The water moves faster at that point and can create a deep spot.

Thirdly, they look on the chart for clues as to the composition of the bottom. Many charts will list “H” for hard bottom, “S” For sandy bottom, and “M” for mud bottom. Hard bottoms have produced the most Meg teeth.

In over 200 fossil dives, Eberlein says he has rarely had visibility greater than 5 feet. “Most dives, I have had to feel for the fossils,” he says. “I grope around on the bottom until I feel broken fossil bones of ancient marine or terrestrial mammals. The bones usually lead me to Meg teeth.”

“Often the fossils tend to be below the surface of the hard packed mud bottom,” he says. “As I swim along, I dig my fingers into the bottom a couple of inches to try to feel what is under the hard packed mud. Before freeing up a fossil, I can usually tell by feel what I’ve got. This comes with a little practice.”

Eberlein and Kline emphasize that the best way to learn to dive for fossils in the Carolinas is to locate a licensed service that specializes in fossil diving charters (listed at the back of this book). They can take you to productive sites and warn you about local hazards. Strive to be a safe diver, they stress.

River Diving Hazards

Fossil divers Bill Eberlein and Todd Kline caution Meg hunters that river diving is not for the inexperienced.

“Limited or nonexistent visibility is the first challenge a diver faces,” says Eberlein. “This makes even the most routine task difficult. There will be times that you can’t see your tank pressure gauge, compass, computer or depth gauge even with the strongest of lights.”

Eberlein says boat traffic in the area can create another hazard. Many boaters are not accustomed to looking for divers and do not know the meaning of dive flags. “I always leave plenty of air and available bottom time so that I can surface when I do not hear a boat in the area. Remember that sailboats do not make noise, so always be cautious when surfacing.

“Strong currents can also push you away from your dive boat without you realizing it,” he adds. “On the surface you can be swept out of sight from the dive boat in a matter of minutes. An attentive and experienced operator on the boat at all times is crucial.

“Some rivers in the Southeast are 50 or 60 feet deep in spots, says Eberlein. “Dive agencies teach that a 5 minute safety stop should be made at 15 feet before surfacing. If you can’t find your way back to the down line, you may be forced to make a free ascent. Even if you have perfect buoyancy control, hovering in a current is difficult. While ascending, the current will push you further away from the boat before you surface. To keep from becoming separated from the boat many divers tie a line off to the anchor. But this can cause entanglement problems because of the limited visibility and strong currents.

“Dangerous local marine life such as sharks, rays, eels and alligators may also await the diver,” says Eberlein. “The limited visibility only adds to one’s apprehension. I have often imagined that my dive light acts as a beacon to attract any creature looking for a fat diver sandwich.”

Another problem, explains Eberlein, is that the additional effort exerted while fighting currents and digging for fossils causes divers to use air faster and absorb nitrogen at an increased rate. Dive tables and computers do not compensate for the increased nitrogen absorption and a diver can be more susceptible to decompression illnesses.

Because of limited visibility, visual communications with a buddy can be impossible. Many fossil divers have turned to solo diving which requires special training and equipment. Most agencies and instructors do not recommend this practice. Again, a local dive instructor or charter service can give you recommendations appropriate to the local conditions that you might encounter.

A final hazard says Eberlein, is not paying attention to local or state laws. “I would hate to find a nice 5″ Meg tooth only to have it taken away in place of a fine for not obtaining the proper licenses or permits. Many states require permits be obtained before diving for fossils. As with any endeavor, ignorance of the law is no excuse.”