Fossil Diving at Venice Beach FL for Megalodon and Mammoth
I have always wanted to hunt shark teeth at Venice Beach, Florida. Commonly referred to as the shark tooth capital of the world, Venice Beach boasts a plethora of miocene aged shark teeth from the Bone Valley formation. Also found there are numerous pleistocene ice age fossils. I usually take at least one long distance fossil hunting trip a year, and when da fossz, t$, and scubapaul said they would be down for a trip to Venice, we contacted rivrdigr and started making plans. The past few years he has come to SC, a trip we've named RivrDigrFest. This year, we are bringing the fest to the digr.
Day 1: We met up with rivrdigr bright and early. The weather was beautiful with a light onshore breeze and barely a cloud in sight. On the way, rivrdigr told us that the past winter had been the coldest and stormiest on record, and that up until our visit, the visibility offshore had been horrendous because of the storms. As soon as I hit the water, I could tell I was going to like diving in Venice for megalodon teeth. The viso was great - at least 10 feet - and there was no current to fight. I hit the bottom and a cloud immediately surrounded me. My inner arm by my right wrist started hurting. I had slammed it into a piece of coral. Ouch! That's going to leave a mark. I realized that I would have to change my technique, honed in the blasting current, zero viz South Carolina rivers. I inflated my buoyancy compensator (BC) enough to float off the bottom and as soon as I drifted away from my initial cloud, viso was nice. I could see fish everywhere! The dive shop guys said the fish were fleeing the BP oil slick. Large Tiger sharks had even been spotted! There were also a bunch of urchins all over the place. Those things were the bane of my Venice scuba diving experience. It seemed like everytime my hands touched the bottom, they came down on top of those spiny demons. I feel like I spent half my bottom time picking urchin spines out of my fingers. I was hunting megalodon teeth in Venice, not urchins, but I soon realized I needed to at least keep an eye out for them. Nobody on the boat found much on that dive, so we moved in closer to shore for our next dives.
Inshore, the viso was terrible. We had less than a foot, but strangely I felt at home. I also started finding more teeth. There were giant Lemon shark teeth and Bull shark teeth all over the place. I vacuumed them up fearing that I would come home empty handed. I remember thinking that and then swimming up on a gigantic hemipristis tooth. It looked MASSIVE! Soon after that, I found a killer Mako tooth. I felt like I was back into my racking ways. The last dive of the day was only about 150 yards away from where we did the second dive, and the viso was about the same. It is all kind of a blur now that I think back on it, but I found my first Venice Beach pristine megalodon tooth on this dive. It is not huge, but its a really sweet posterior with a nice tip. I continued swimming around picking up little teeth and I came to the 500 psi limit where it was time to surface. The first thing I did with I came up was look around for the boat. The waves were a little choppy and the boat was a long way away. My BC was spewing air at an alarming pace. I was down to 100 psi by the time I made it to the boat. With such incredible viso, it would be extremely easy to swim 1/2 mile away with no trouble until the end of the dive! I decided to buy a reel and start really working pattern. Regardless of what I would find on any of the next dives, I came to Venice looking for a megalodon tooth, and I had one.
Day 2: Same time, same spot, same conditions. Almost all the teeth were broken, but I swam up on a larger megalodon tooth. Its tip was obscured by a chunk of phosphate and when I pulled it out it was decent. A little rounded but bigger than the megalodon tooth I found on the first day. My dry rotted right fin strap busted then and I didn't have a replacement. Luckily, rivrdigr had some cable ties that I looped together for a makeshift fin-strap. As an added bonus, I noticed that my mask is filling with water at an alarming pace. I feel like I wasted a lot of time purging water. Must find teeth!! At the end of our dives, we met up with fellow BRF member toofless. He hooked us up with some AWESOME shirts. His megalodon t-shirts look incredible. (I wore mine until the stench became unbearable) Later that night in the hotel I noticed nice cuts in the back of my heel where the cable ties rubbed my skin. Cool. Chicks dig scars. The beginning of gravy mode was celebrated at a fine establishment called Burritos. The waitress bragged about a 5 pound burrito that was due within a month. I am contemplating another visit so I can both dine on the mega burrito, and partake of such a fine rack again.
Day 3: Today was Fathers day, so rivrdigr was not with us. We met up with toofless instead, who extended us the webbed-neoprene glove of fosspitality. He took us a little way further down the beach with a little deeper water and better visibility. The first thing I noticed when I entered the water was that I could see the bottom and tons of fish swimming around the coral. The bottom looked like a reef with all kinds of multicolored fish. A lot of people go diving all over the world to see fish, but in Venice there are fossils are right next to them! I swam a pattern and found a few teeth, only one complete. It was pretty cool, though. Its the last posterior position megalodon tooth. I love tooth collecting! Even after all these years of hunting fossils in some of the greatest shark tooth hunting locations in the world, this is my first complete meg tooth of this position. I moved in a little bit different direction about halfway through the dive because the bottom became more reef and less teeth. My reel became extremely entangled in the coral and I started wasting more time backtracking and untangling than picking up teeth. I got back into the deeper water and saw a familiar ribbed pattern sitting out in the open. Mammoth tooth! WOW! Right then, Scubapaul swam over and witnessed my recovery of the coveted non-artifact. I did not expect to find a mammoth tooth diving in Venice! I put it under my arm and continued my dive. The coral and barnacle encrustation soon began to dig into my cut from the previous day. Short sleeves were a bad call. I swam around for about 20 more minutes with that mammoth tooth under my arm. The coral scrape was nicely swollen by the time I got back to the boat. da fossz got back to the boat and he, too, had a nice mammoth tooth. This spot is loaded! We went back in for our second dive, and I swam around for quite a while with no luck. Then, I spotted that tell-tale ribbed pattern - another mammoth tooth. This was more complete that the one from the previous dive. It unfortunately did not fit into my bag or my BC pocket so I carried it the rest of the dive, this time with my left arm. Back on the boat, I watched da fossz return with another mammoth tooth followed by toofless who had 3!! After a shower, we visited another burrito joint called Chiplotes. Good but pricey. But then again, the celebratory mexican feast is something upon which future successful fossil hunting depends. Who can put a price on that?
Day 4: Return of the digr - After hearing of our stupendous paleo feats the previous day, Rivrdigr and his son, who has not yet taken upon himself a paleo name, took us back to the same spot. I was really getting the hang of diving with the reel and my patterns were really organized and efficient by the last day. I was scooping up the teeth right and left when I found another mammoth tooth. Over a small mound of phosphate I spied a nice, large, triangular shape. megalodon tooth! Oh and it was sweet. I could tell underwater that the bourlette was complete and most of the serrations were intact. I could also tell it wasn't black like most of the other teeth I'd been finding. Then another mammoth tooth. And finally one more. Three, count 'em, THREE mammoth teeth in the same dive. I was also lugging around two massive bone chunks. By goodie bag was hanging low, and my BC was almost completely inflated just to keep me on off the bottom. I decided to swim back to the boat early to give myself enough air to lug all my paleo treasures to the boat. Luckily I was hooked via my reel to the anchor line. I don't know how I would have swam back with this much booty. We moved the boat about 250 yards and went at it again. Guess what I found? TWO more mammoth teeth. Third dive? TWO more mammoth teeth and a fragment of another. I was covered with lacerations from coral and equipment. My back ached from 4 days of equipment. Plus I was just plain tired of other equipment. But it was all worth it. I had tasted of a rack of such monumental proportions that I might not ever top it. Who knows. I'm still relatively young and my paleo hand is strong. Such a trip could only be properly celebrated at Moes where I threw down old school style on TWO homewreckers, chips, and queso.
There you have it. Rivrdigrfest 2010 - Venice Beach Florida. 4 days of diving, fossil hunting, mexican food, and hanging with my friends. How could it get any better than this?