We learn it is rare to find sea glass on South Carolina beaches. We learn though that it is possible to find shark teeth. We begin our search. I ask my daughter what colour the teeth will be and she shrugs her shoulders and says, “white.” We search all day with no teeth found despite our effort.
I research that night and learn though it is possible to find white teeth, the vast majority will be fossilized and black. We begin searching early the next day and soon my daughter is rewarded, she finds one and then soon another. Our son in law finds the next one. I search and search with no luck. As the sun dips below the horizon, our son in law asks, “Can we do this tomorrow?”
We begin the next day. I wake determined to find a tooth of my own, I find four and John finds his first. When found, it’s so obvious. They are shiny triangles. Then not so obvious as I pick up seemingly hundreds of triangle shaped shells and rocks with no reward.
We learn that sharks predate trees. We shake our heads as we wrap our heads around this thought. The fossils we hold in our hands are at least 10,000 years old and some may be upwards of 450 million years old. We learn interesting facts about sharks. They lose 35,000 teeth in their lifetime, they have survived 4 mass extinctions and they are older than dinosaurs. Megladon the name meaning large tooth, existed 20 million years ago and dominated the oceans for the next 13 million years until they became extinct 3.6 million years ago. It is possible to find their teeth in South Carolina. Megladon teeth are as large as a human hand. The teeth we find belonged to tiger sharks or lemon sharks, much smaller than megladon and about one fifth the size of a dime. As I roam the beach looking I think of how lovely it would be to see a tooth easily. It’s the hunt that’s important I decide.
While wandering the beach, I meet a man who asks if I’m finding beautiful shells. I explain I’m searching for shark teeth. He smiles and then tilts his head back as he finds his memory and shares of when his boys were small and together they looked for shark teeth. He says they found Megladon teeth and that his youngest son had a special knack. He said the teeth were easy to pick out of the surf and he had many jars of teeth that he treasures from that time. I think of how the teeth I find will also be cherished by me for their memories of this time. How amazing to hold the tooth, still sharp, the surf unable to smooth its point. When we leave the beach with our treasure it is the first time the tooth has not been in water.
Our son in law says, “I don’t even care if I find one, it’s that I lose myself in the search, my mind quiets, I don’t worry about anything. The movies in my head temporarily stop and all there is to do is look.” I nod that yes this is my reason too, as I continue my search down the beach.