30 Days of September: Day 16 (Finding shark teeth)
Happy Saturday folks!
Tonight I'm finishing packing for my trip to Coeur d'Alene, ID. Now that my bag is by the door, we're about to snuggle up and watch an episode of Outlander, my current favorite show. I'm also going to download a few movies and shows to my iPad for the flight (I love that Netflix made this a thing). My blog post today is about finding shark teeth. I get a lot of questions, so I thought I would write a bit about it.
Where to start. First, what Michael and I search for are fossilized shark teeth. From my research, I found that shark teeth do not fossilize until at least 10,000 years. Many of the shark teeth that we find are millions of years old. Yes, I said millions, and we know this because of carbon-dating and scientific research. Paleontology is a fascinating subject and I highly recommend researching the types of fossils you find. My favorite place to read about fossils is from the Fossil Guy. He is highly knowledgeable and has great resources available, especially for fossil identification. Yes, we come home and try to identify the teeth we have found.
We have thousands of teeth in antique medicine jars in our house. We have found each and every one of them. Any free weekend we have we try to get outside to look for them. One of the most highly coveted type of fossilized shark teeth is from the now extinct Megalodon that roamed the seas. They left behind massive fossilized teeth, some as big as your hand.
I think the two most important questions are WHERE do you look and WHAT do you look for. I'll start with what you look for. Fossilized shark teeth come in all shapes and sizes. They are often black, gray, or a dark tan color. Amazingly, the color of the fossilized shark teeth is determined by the sediment in which they fossilized. At one of our favorite spots, you can find teeth that are a light tan pink color, sometimes with a purple hue, they're beautiful. If you have never looked before, I would recommend looking online for fossilized shark teeth images to get an idea of what you might find.
Next, where to look. A serious fossil hunter will likely never share their 'good' spots. But, I love to encourage people to get out and look. First, it gets you outside. Second, it is so much fun. Even if we don't find any teeth during the day, we often walk for hours, together, and that is enough for us. It is a common misconception that you can only find fossilized shark teeth at the beach. The teeth we find are found in areas that were covered in oceans millions of years ago. Most of the Eastern seaboard was under water at some point. Again, I highly encourage you to read about this, it's fascinating.
Our favorite places to find teeth are at two Virginia state parks, Westmoreland and Chippokes. You can find fossilized shark teeth and other fossils at both parks. If you go to Westmoreland, don't miss out on Northern Neck Burgers (veggie burger option is AMAZING). If you go to Chippokes, they also have a plantation and beautiful grounds. Westmoreland is on the Potomac River and Chippokes is on the James River. I highly recommend checking tide charts to see when low tide is. You do not want to go during high-tide as there won't be a lot of beach to walk on. When you arrive to either park, go to the park welcome center, the entrance to getting on to the beaches are close by. At Westmoreland you have to hike a bit to Fossil Beach. At Chippokes you walk down a small path right onto the beach. Then...you start looking! We have best luck along the water line as the small waves lap the shore.
We sometimes bring a sifter or other tools along but honestly we hardly use them. I always wear muckboots as I don't enjoy walking with wet feet or barefoot. I highly recommend going your first time without a lot of gear. Bring a little bag or jar to save your finds! We simply walk and look. People ask us how we know what we are finding are shark teeth. There isn't an easy answer except that you just know. They look like shark teeth, distinct from shells and other fossils. If you are seriously questioning whether or not it is a tooth, it likely isn't. Along those lines, you are not allowed to take many of the fossils found on the beach. Fossilized shark teeth ARE allowed to be kept and taken home with you.
This has become our most beloved hobby, and I think we've become quite good at it. We usually leave with 30-40 teeth each visit. That being said, don't be disappointed if you don't find any at all. A few of my coworkers have gone based on our recommendation and each have found a few. It is something for all ages. You will see others walking and looking for teeth, some will even want to show you what they've found. We've had countless encounters with all sorts of folk, young and old, looking for teeth.
A few other places we love to look or have been recommended:
- Folly Beach, SC
- Venice Beach, FL ("Shark Tooth Capital of the World")
- Amelia Island, FL
- Calvert Cliffs, MD
- Search online for places to find teeth near you!
Happy hunting! If you have questions, send me a message!