Fossicking in the Edisto River for Giant Prehistoric Shark Teeth
My wife taught me a new word - fossick - it means to prospect or hunt for stuff, including gold, gems, AND fossils especially in mines and riverbeds. I had never heard that term before but its a different way to describe what we do. No matter how you say it, there's nothing like fossil hunting anywhere. Being outside this time of year is an absolute delight, plus we get to look for killing implements of long dead monsters! How cool is that?
This was the weezling's and my the last visit to the Edisto in 2010. I still have one more post from there, but I saved it for last. Not to get ahead of myself, this day was not to be skipped. We went back to the spot where da fossz, the weezling, and I had gone a few weeks ago. We figured it would be a cool place to check over one last time. On the way, we decided to jump in a little closer to the bank on the bend and to our surprise, the layer extended even up this far. A nice current helped us move a thin layer of sand revealing an extensive gravel bed. The teeth were literally sticking out of the rocks like they do in my dreams. They looked incredible there in the gravel that make up the Edisto Formation, deposited near the end of the pleistocene, aka Ice Age.
The Edisto Formation is where all the rocks come from that are all over the bottom of the river around where we dive. Normally, they have been eroded and redeposited by the current, but not in this spot. All we had to do was swim along and pick out the fossils in an intact formation that had never before been seen by human eyes. When we dig, we're looking for the general equivalent of this formation on land.
The water has never been clearer all year. The sky didn't have a cloud in it and the radiant sun shone across the bottom all day long. Anyone familiar with the dark waters of the lowcountry might be surprised how deep the natural illumination can get when conditions are perfect. Because of such good fossil bearing formation, my son and I hunted next to each other all day. I got to see him find tooth after tooth, and he got to see me do the same. In the video you can hear our victories and our defeats as the finds piled up. I got to see the elation in his face when he found the biggest, most complete tooth he has ever found in the river - a 3 3/16 inch angustidens. Really nice! He carried it around for days. Who could blame him? I wonder where he learned that kind of behavior?
My biggest find looked amazing underwater. As I gently coaxed the sand and gravel away, I noticed an enormous root of a gigantic tooth. I thought it could be a megalodon tooth because of its size, but I saw a cusp and knew it was an angustidens tooth, the prehistoric equivalent of megalodon’s grandfather. The tip was buried and I found it difficult to hold the camera steady as I unearthed the beast. Busted! They almost always are because these older sharks held onto their teeth longer than the more recent megalodon. Just look at the root and how substantial it is compared to a similar position in a megalodon and its easy to see why. Of course I would have preferred that the tooth be complete with a sharp tip, but as far as finding big shark teeth goes, this was pretty nice. Speaking of big shark teeth, did I mention that I had one final post for the Edisto this year?
Although the big angustidens (4 ¼ inches with a broken tip!) was exciting to find, it didn’t scratch that itch to find a caseworthy specimen. That came as I swam a deeper gravel bed which was illuminated by the late afternoon sun. Always before when I had swam this spot, I had to use a light because it is shaded almost all day long. What a huge difference it makes to be able to see. I got a really nice angustidens – totally complete from root to tip, with amazing color. Its small, but its not always size that counts. Sometimes quality can surpass size. Sometimes. Did I mention I had one more report from the Edisto this year? We continued to swim up river, picking up teeth the whole way. The sun was going down by the time we were out of the river. We had hunted for over 7 hours and hauled in some nice fossil finds.
Thus ended the weezling and my day fossicking in the Edisto river. Thanks, chikweezil, for the new verbiage. I don’t know how much I will use the term, but it’s nice to know its there. The fact that there is a word that can mean “fossil hunting” is exciting to me. It shows that generations before me knew this was a great hobby. I’m glad that there are still places where we can do it now, and I hope they remain accessible so future fossil lovers can do it too. Today I reinforced the notion with my son to make sure it thrives in the next generation, at a minimum, in this house anyway.