Fossil Dive, Venice Florida
June 23-24, 2006
By Valerie Feehan

We all arrived and met up at the hotel on Venice Island late Thursday afternoon.  Venice is a relatively small island off the city of Venice, Florida.  We were there to participate in the shark teeth/fossil dive with Florida West Scuba.  We took a drive to find exactly where the dive shop was located and to introduce ourselves.  Steve, the owner, was there along with his staff.  We introduced ourselves and got some information regarding the boat departure times, gear, etc.  The shop is literally loaded with shark teeth of different varieties and sizes.  There’s a very impressive collection of large megalodon teeth and various whale and manatee bones to look at.  It’s a pretty interesting dive shop to visit, and a great preview of what we hoped we’d find on our dives.

Friday morning we all met up and headed over to the dive shop.  We signed the usual waivers then boarded the boat, The Hammerhead, and set up our gear.  In a relatively short period of time, the boat was full (12 divers) and we were off.  The ride out to the first site took only about 10 minutes.  Once at the site, folks who had done this type of diving before geared up and entered the water.  For us first timers, we stayed on board for a brief presentation on the dive, the type of teeth we’d be likely to find, and also the type of bones we’d find.  Steve is a retired geologist, so he’s the best person to tell us what to look for and where.  Once we felt we had enough info, we each jumped in with a flag and off we went to search for teeth.

We were down only about 23 feet, a shallow dive.  There was no time limit—dive until you needed to come up.  Each person had their own flag (required) and could do their own thing.  At first we all tried to stay together in a small group, but that quickly went by the wayside as the visibility was stirred up to only a few feet in any direction.  I lost sight of my dive buddies, John and Rick, pretty quickly.  They apparently lost sight of each other, too.  We all basically went our own way in search of teeth and fossils.  I started finding the teeth pretty quickly, and it was exciting!  In fact, it was so exciting I forgot to hold onto my flag, and after about 10 minutes realized I didn’t have it any longer!  Ugh!  (I hate holding the flag, as does everyone else).  I searched around for it and quickly realized I wouldn’t be able to see it. So I surfaced and gave light tugs on the flags around me—it was amazing at the surface to see so many flags, but you could not see anyone underwater!  I thought, wow, there’s this many people around me? I couldn’t see anyone underwater!  Anyway, I glanced in the direction of the boat, and there was my flag, a short swim away.  I sheepishly swam over to it and grabbed it, and then hooked it around my arm this time, vowing to myself not to do that again.

After close to two hours I finally decided (with 500 psi left) it was probably a good idea to head back to the boat.  I didn’t have quite the amount of teeth that I wanted, but I knew I had one medium-sized tooth that was probably a good find, and a piece of some sort of bone that looked pretty good. Also a few of those really nice sand dollars (couldn’t resist).  I got back to the boat and most everyone else was there.  Rick came up a minute later, and one other fellow just after him.

John came back with about a few dozen teeth, some manatee bones and whale bones.  I got probably three dozen teeth, including a pristine Mako shark tooth and a whale tooth.  Those were both good finds.  Rick came up with quite a few teeth, some really nice ones.  We all came up with various stingray stingers, sailfish barbs, stingray mouth pieces, and I even got a piece of the roof of the mouth of a puffer fish.  We felt we did pretty well for our first dive.   The “old timers” came up with loads more—of course!  All in all, it was a really good dive for everyone.

The next dive site was 5 minutes away in a little deeper water (around 31 feet). This dive was to find the megalodon, or giant shark, teeth.  We did stick together as a group on this dive, and the vis was better, but we didn’t find much.  I found a medium sized tooth and Rick I think found a few teeth, but none of us found the big megalodon teeth on this dive.  When we got back to the boat, others were already on it checking out their booty—there were quite a few megalodon teeth found, along with various fossils of bone, scallop shell impressions, and other fossil artifacts.  It seems you really have to know what you’re looking for to find the large teeth.  We didn’t get discouraged.  We decided we’d try to get on the boat on Saturday to try our luck again.

Saturday morning we arrived at the dive shop to see if there would be any no-shows.  Luck wasn’t on our side, everyone showed up for the charter that morning.  So we opted for shore diving instead.  We got tanks, weights and a flag and headed over to Service Park Beach (recommended). Service Park is on the north side of Sharkey’s Pier and is a pretty nice beach for scuba.  We did a quick plan of what we were going to do, geared up and headed out into the water.  We did a long surface swim out to a point past the end of Sharkey’s pier, then dropped down and swam a little further out until we found the ancient riverbed, and everyone immediately started searching for and finding shark teeth.  We all found much more here than the previous day, mostly because we now knew what to look for and how.  After almost two hours, Rick ran low an air and we decided to head back into shore.

We checked out our booty and were extremely happy! We all had a pretty good haul of teeth, including some really nice Mako teeth Rick found.  I, of course, picked up more sand dollars along with the shark teeth.  John had a really good catch, too, much better than the previous day.  We  had originally decided to do only one dive, but now that we saw how much teeth we found, we were eager to get back out and search again. So John took the tanks back to the dive shop to get them refilled while Rick and I waited.  Rick met up with a few other divers at Service Park who had literally buckets of the megalodon teeth!  It was incredible how many they had.  Rick asked where they were diving to find those and how to find them.  The divers indicated the spot we just dove was a pretty good spot and told Rick what to look for.  We could not wait for John to get back so we could get out there and find the megalodon teeth!

After about an hour we were doing the long surface swim back out, everyone eager to get started searching on our 2nd dive.  It was everyone’s goal to get a megalodon tooth on this dive.  We would be diving close to the same spot as the first time, and on the surface we discussed what we should be looking for once we dropped down.  Then we all descended to the bottom and began our searches.

We were all finding lots of teeth, mostly tiger shark, but didn’t seem to have much luck with the larger teeth.  Finally after about 2 hours 10 minutes, Rick was low on air and we had to turn back and swim in.  Much to our dismay, none of us found a megalodon tooth.  But we had a really, really good time, and now can say we did a 2 hour 10 minute dive!  We could have gone even longer if Rick hadn’t run out of air (sorry, Rick).  We all really wanted one more try at finding these large shark teeth, but it was pretty much time to go and we had to fly the next day, so we were cutting it close for the no-fly time.

Shark fossil diving is a real treat.  We all had a terrific time, and we certainly look forward to doing the trip with the club again next year!  Al, include some shore diving it in, OK