Sharks Teeth Treasure
“Ever been to Jekyll Island’s Shark’s Tooth Beach?” Tom rode his kayak in the eddy at the margin where the marsh grass met the river, and kind of leered at me, wiggling his eyebrows.
I was with a small party of other sea kayak novices on a float trip out of Tidelands Nature Center. Tom Woolf was our guide. The green of Jekyll Island’s maritime forest spread to starboard, endless marsh to port. We were resting, and I’d just told Tom that our family came to Jekyll every time we could pry ourselves away from work and school. “We know this place like the back of our hands,” I’d boasted.
Apparently the island had a few secrets I wasn’t privy to.
“Shark’s Tooth Beach?” I said. “That’s a new one. Where’s it located?”
Tom told me how to get there – and what, if I was lucky, I might find. As it happened, Shark’s Tooth Beach turned out to be a memorable adventure, and served to remind me once again – on this island paradise, there’s always something new to see and do.
Prehistoric Sharks Teeth
Tom told me that Sharks Tooth Beach was a great place to find prehistoric sharks teeth - the teeth of the Megalodon, an almost-legendary shark that lived during the Cenozoic era, from 1.5 to 28 million years ago.
Megalodon grew to more than 58' long. Makes a great white look like a minnow.
No Megalodons swim in the waters off Jekyll Island nowadays (at least I don't think they do!), but they left their calling cards - their fossilized teeth, which themselves could reach over 7" long. A 52' Megalodon had a bite force of 24,395 lbs., compared to 4,000 lbs. for a typical great white shark (from Wikipedia article entitled "Megalodon").
Megalodon sharks teeth have been found all over the world, but the teeth you'll most likely run across on Sharks Tooth Beach belong to the great white shark.
First Aborted Attempt to Reach Sharks Tooth Beach
My first try at reaching Sharks Tooth Beach was a washout - literally. Tom had told me that to reach the beach, you had to hike a bit. Following Tom's instructions, I found the trail head just past the entrance to Summer Waves Water Park. It's gated to keep cars out, but a space was left just wide enough for a hiker or biker to get through.
I took off on a cloudy afternoon (the last day of our vacation) while Martha napped in the house. I was thinking I'd be on the beach in a few minutes. Not so. The trail winds through maritime forest bordering virgin marshland for more than a mile, so it's a real hike. Hiking boots aren't needed, but they help.
The first section was pretty open, but then the trail narrowed and vegetation started to encroach.
I was eager to reach the beach. Tom had said that the best time to search for sharks teeth was at extreme low tide. Dawn Zenkert, director of Tidelands Nature Center, confirmed his advice. "Sharks Tooth Beach is covered by a layer of naturally occurring oyster shells," Dawn said. The best time to find anything is at the lowest point of the ebb tide, when a narrow strip of the muddy bottom is exposed.
About halfway to the beach, Mother Nature put a damper on my expedition. Thunderstorms rolled in, accompanied by driving rain - and lightning.
Hiking across the lowlands is not much fun when you can see lightning striking the marsh on all sides of you. I turned tail and retreated, as fast as I could, back to the car, feeling lucky to get back with hide intact.
Sharks Teeth Here I Come
The next time we visited Jekyll Island, I was eager to finish what I'd started. I'd talked more with Dawn, and she told me that sharks teeth weren't the only treasures an intrepid explorer could find. She said that others had found shards of pottery left over from when the coastal Indians inhabited the area, as well as tools, weapons, and debris from shipwrecks.
So, with visions of treasure dancing in my head, I hit the trail. This time Martha accompanied me (she was born to hike!). No rain this time, but by the time we reached the halfway point, I was wishing for some. It was about 95 degrees out, and humid as the inside of a greenhouse.
We passed the point where I'd turned around the year before, and the trail narrowed considerably, with lush vegetation crowding the path in places. Hikers could get through fairly easily, but a biker would need to leave the bike and continue on foot.
Off in the distance we could see the towers of the water slides at Summer Waves, with tiny people waiting their turns to slide. I wondered if they could spot us from their vantage point, and if they could were they thinking, "What are those idiots doing down there slogging around in the heat?"
Finally we emerged on the crescent-shaped Sharks Tooth Beach. Dawn was right. It wasn't your typical sandy beach. Oyster shells hid the sand except right at water's edge. We'd timed our visit to coincide with low tide, and had hit it perfectly. A strip of mud about 2' in width lay exposed at our feet.
We dug around in the mud for about 30 minutes before calling it quits without a tooth to be found. The heat and my rumbling stomach called a halt to our Indiana Jones impressions, and we slogged back to the car, disappointed that we hadn't discovered any sharks teeth, Megalodon or otherwise - but determined to come back again, in cooler weather, armed with digging tools and sieves, to once again try our luck at finding our own version of buried treasure.
If you want to experience the thrill of the hunt, you can find the Sharks Tooth Beach trail head off Riverview Drive, just past Summer Waves Water Park. If it's hot, take plenty of water with you. It'll take you about an hour of steady hiking to get their, maybe longer with small kids.
Bug spray may be necessary on the way in and out, and sun block when you reach the beach. Might want to pack a lunch. Martha and I took a pack of crackers, and it wasn't nearly enough.
Good hunting, and if you discover any sharks teeth (or other treasures), we'd like to hear your story!