The Mother of All Sharks
by Bill Eberlein – megateeth.com | photos by Shawn Heifert/John Wood
Millions of years ago a giant shark called a Megalodon swam the world’s oceans. This giant shark was ten times larger than the shark depicted in the movie JAWS. It was massive as the largest whales that live today. In addition to it’s size, the Megalodon had hundreds of razor sharp serrated teeth, many of which were larger than a man’s hand. Scientists believe that the Megalodon became extinct two million years ago because of climate change and the evolution of the giant whales that the Megalodon fed on. The thought is that the whales became faster and more elusive.
These amazing Megalodon teeth have survived for millions of years in the form of fossils and are highly collected around the world. I spend my days diving in 10 to 20 meters of murky water searching for these fossilized Megateeth. The strong currents cause the water to stir up the mud on the bottom where the Megalodon lived and shed their shark teeth. Even with a very powerful dive light I usually have zero visibility. Even when I can not see what I just found, I cannot describe the excitement I feel underwater when I find giant shark teeth measuring up to 17cm long and 12cm wide. It is an amazing feeling!
This excitement transfers to others at the marina when I return from a dive trip. People always come to the boat asking to see the Megateeth that I found on the day’s dives .They want to know how I found them and what creatures I bumped into that day.
I often sell some of them right at the dock. Most of the remainder of the teeth that I fins are sold on my website at www.megateeth.com. Every tooth is unique and people cannot get enough of these shark teeth or the stories about how they are found.I first saw a Megalodon Tooth when a fellow SCUBA diver in Savannah showed me one that he found while diving. When you hold a Megalodon tooth for the first time, you are instantly struck by its weight. Some weigh almost 2 pounds (900 Grams). Imagine the mouth that would hold almost 300 of them. Then you start holding it up to things around you. “It’s as big as my entire outstretched hand”. After seeing that first tooth I marched home and booked a dive charter out of Hilton Head, South Carolina. I just needed one Megalodon tooth to call my own. The only problem is that collectors never have one of anything, and they are a lot of fun to find. Fun comes in different brands, and I find mine in the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway, along the Georgia coast. This is black water diving, and it’s not for newbies. You’re down there with very strong currents that can drag you along the bottom away from the boat waiting to pick you up. You usually have no visibility whatsoever. I own a $1200 dive light, and, even with that, I often can’t read my gauges. People ask me how I know when to come up and I tell them that I surface when it gets hard to breathe. Spring through autumn, my traditional SCUBA gear includes a wet suit with thin gloves. When it’s cold, I wear a dry suit that seals around my neck and wrists to keep out the cold water. Weights keep me on the bottom where the Megateeth are. Picture being blind¬folded and dropped down in the middle of a field. I crawl along and dig my hands, and sometimes arms, down into the mud until I find the fossil bed where Megalodon shark teeth and other extraordinary fossils are found. This means going through a lot of silt with my hands, and that same material is what tinted fossilized shark teeth a variety of colors. In this area a lot are gray, but there are others that are jet black. The tidal rivers cut down to what would normally be found 10 to 15 meters below the Earth’s surface. Finding Megateeth is the goal, but I have also found Mammoth and Mastodon fossils from later time periods.
Some days I find nothing at all. Like fishing it can be hit or miss. It’s also not uncommon for me to find two or three good teeth, and a few chipped ones, on a single dive. There are some instances that the teeth were damaged while the animal was alive and feeding. People have found Megalodon shark teeth broken off in fossilized prehistoric whale vertebrae. Think of the thrashing that takes place while one giant fights for survival and another for a good meal.
While you’re looking for the remains of the dead, you’re also bumping into what’s alive. Accidentally grabbing a sting ray is pretty normal, and I fear them more than I do sharks. They come flying out of the mud with their barbed tail thrashing around. When you blindly grab something and it moves you jump back as far and as fast as you can. Even a small flounder burst¬ing from the river bed will give you quite a start. What I really hate is when I grab what I think is the smooth enamel surface of a Megalodon tooth, and it turns out to be the shell of a blue crab offering a painful pinch. Then there are those shoves by something big and heavy that I can’t see.
Tiger sharks, Bull sharks and Hammerheads are all possibilities. So are alligators which, on occasion, enter this brackish water. Thankfully, I don’t hold much interest for these carnivores – it seems. Boats are also hazards. Underwater, you can hear them above you, but it is impossible to tell how close they are. The sound is distorted, and, for this reason, I must use extreme caution when I surface.
What started out as a hobby quickly became an obsession: boxes and boxes of shark teeth that made my wife ask why I was diving for more? In 2001, I did what most collectors do to hold on to their habit; I agreed to sell some. My website www.megateeth.com was born. It distinguishes itself from other sites selling Megalodon shark teeth by containing only those fossils that I have found myself. I make sure customers understand this, and I’ve been told that they appreciate it. It personalizes the experience, but it also alleviates questions about teeth that customers should ask. Megateeth.com is also a resource for those who want to learn more about Megalodon teeth. The collector’s guide is full of photos that help to evaluate and identify tooth parts including: enamel, root, bourrelet, serrations, etc. My site also defines terminology common among teeth collectors, so you are able to understand important descriptions. I enjoy sharing tips like never trusting the measurement of a ruler. A caliper measuring to 1/1000 of an inch should be your guide. Size of a tooth shifts its worth by hundreds of dollars, so it is important to be exact. Even as thousands are raised from river and sea beds, scientists are constantly learning new bits about the massive shark. At the University of New South Wales in Sydney Australia, researchers have developed computer software to measure the Megalodon’s bite force. This is cool, because it tells about its feeding behavior revealing it could do this but not that. An advantage of this sort of thing is that tests don’t damage valuable specimens, because all of the action is computer-generated.