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Shark week: Shark tooth hunters highlight niche of local ocean-based economy
Marisa Mecke
Savannah Morning News

On a clear blue day, Bill Eberlein is 60 feet underwater digging through the muck of the ocean floor.

Eberlein is a longtime diver and SCUBA instructor, a native Pennsylvanian who came to Georgia by way of Gulfstream. But now, Eberlein is making a livelihood in one of Georgia’s most niche ocean-based economies: shark tooth hunting.

During the summer months — and especially Shark Week — Savannahians are highly aware that Georgia’s coast has an abundance of sharks. From Atlantic sharpnoses to hammerheads to blacktips, between year-round residents and seasonally visiting sharks, the Georgia coast has several dozen species in its waters.

But Eberlein is looking for the teeth of something much larger and much older than any of these: the megalodon. This giant species of mackerel shark swam in our waters about 23 million to 3.6 million years. With a name meaning “big tooth,” it delivers: Eberlein regularly pulls up teeth several inches long, big enough to fill a grown man’s palm.

The largest megalodon tooth from this dive was about 6 inches in length, which would have come from a shark that was approximately 60 feet long.

He was introduced to the activity by a friend from work, and candidly Eberlein admits that at first he couldn’t imagine why someone would want to spend time diving in murky river water for shark teeth. But once his friend showed him a megalodon tooth, he understood.

He spent the next year diving, getting a feel for finding the teeth by hand-feel due to poor visibility in Georgia’s waters and saving up all that he found. He’d shove all the teeth into pizza boxes under his bed until there were too many boxes to fit. He sold all the teeth to put a down payment on a boat.

Since then, he’s been cruising the Georgia coast for teeth. It’s environmentally a particularly good spot for hunting because the currents are a stronger in Georgia, constantly kicking up debris from the ocean floor and with it, more shark teeth that have been buried for years. Moreover, since there are many dredging projects, such as the recently completed Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, shark teeth are stirred up when the bottom.

Eberlein took the dive and quit his full-time job in favor of shark tooth hunting in 2008. While people doubted his choice, Eberlein didn’t look back.


Bill Eberlein goes overboard as he dives for Megalodon teeth near Savannah, Georgia.

A micro-economy on the coast

“Probably the biggest customer is people that get one for their grandchild or their child,” Eberlein said. “Kids are really into (megalodon teeth) since they’re kind of like dinosaurs.” Eberlein reasoned: Kids love dinosaurs, and they love sharks, and a megalodon in their minds is kind of like a dinosaur-shark.

“Megalodon teeth are the only ones pretty much that get over three inches, so if you have a shark’s tooth that’s bigger than three inches, it’s probably a megalodon tooth,” Eberlein said, “And that’s mainly what you’re looking for.”

According to Eberlein, there are well-held, universal standards for megalodon teeth that dictate pricing. On a decent-sized tooth, he and his wife can get anywhere from $50 to a couple hundred depending on the size and whether there is any chipping, abrasions or other imperfections.

A selection of megalodon teeth that Bill Eberlein found during his dive.

For Eberlein, as much as shark tooth hunting is a fascination, it’s also a job: He dives twice a day usually, almost every day of the year. Each dive varies, but he can get two to four teeth per dive on average, he said. There are many other people who professionally hunt for shark teeth and they all generally respect each other’s space and favorite spots to hunt for teeth.

But he and his wife, Dodie Gay-Eberlein said they have to keep an eye out for “pirates,” people who swoop in where shark tooth hunters are to try and search their spots, usually those who are not in the business professionally.

While Eberlein is diving, his wife and business partner Gay-Eberlein is the integral back-end of the operation. She runs the website,, where they sell the teeth and completes all the packaging, shipping and other logistics needed to run a small business. Aside from their website, the pair also attend shark-themed and other related conventions throughout the year where they can sell their wares alongside other shark tooth hunters.

While the teeth of an extinct species is certainly a finite resource, Gay-Eberlein said they’re not worried about running out anytime soon. She said megalodons had 276 teeth, rows upon rows of the giant teeth Eberlein pulls out of the water each day, and throughout their long lives — which could be over 100 years — they were constantly losing and growing back those teeth. Each megalodon could make thousands of teeth in its lifetime.


Bill Eberlein is assisted by his wife, Dodie Gay-Eberlein as he prepares to dive for megalodon teeth.

What others are out there?

While megalodon teeth are abundant throughout coastal Georgia’s ocean floor, there are plenty of other sharks — and shark teeth — to be found.

Visitors getting ready to board the ferry to Cumberland Island might get a hint from the Cumberland Island National Seashore staff that shark teeth will be right under their noses on the island. Or rather, under their feet.

According to a statement compiled by Cumberland Island National Seashore staff, the main road of the island is graded with dredging spoils from Brunswick. The spoils, which is sediment and organic material dug from the bottoms of oceans or rivers, can contain all sorts of natural goodies like shark teeth, shells, bones or other items. The spoils, the staff said, come from an agreement with the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and the area where the dredge is being delivered is closed for safety.

Right now, that is the Racoon Keys area on the north side of the mudflat separating Racoon Keys from Cumberland Island Seashore. Racoon Keys, in general, is an area staff said that boaters will frequent while looking for shark teeth.

Anecdotally, the staff said that visitors have found many types of common sharks’ teeth on the island, including mako, bull, sand shark, sand tiger and lemon sharks.

Beyond Cumberland, Savannahians can venture out to plenty of local spots to find shark teeth. Whether it’s taking a tour on Tybee Island, visiting dredge spoils from the Savannah River or booking a ride out to Shark Tooth Island, there are plenty of opportunities to sharpen your eye for shark teeth hidden along the coast.