The search is on across Grand Strand beaches for the ultimate tourist treasure — giant, prehistoric shark teeth of the massive megalodons that once roamed the seas millions of years ago.
At least four of the rare finds have been publicized locally over the last three years, all of which were discovered by lucky and persistent tourists visiting North Myrtle Beach.
But according to a local fossil hunter, more finds are expected as beach renourishment projects get underway this summer beginning in Surfside Beach and stretching all the way to North Myrtle Beach.
And then there’s the spot where locals shift through sand for the fossils.
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“A lot of people have been hunting around the Pavilion,” said Greg Holt, a beachcomber and black water river diver who hunts for the local treasures.
“A lot of stuff comes up there for some reason. There must be a fossil bed out that way,” Holt said.
Holt moved here from New York in 1985 because of his love for the fossil search. Most of his finds, which he numbers at over 100, have come from local riverbeds.
“I’ve actually made a hat out of them — looks like a “Crocodile Dundee” hat — it’s so cool,” Holt said.
But he says the beach is where his first discoveries were made, and continue to be made by beachcombers.
Most recently, a seven-year-old boy from Virginia found a five-inch tooth while digging in a beach stream.
“I’ve found a lot of them in the rivers, but never anything that size,” Holt said.
“That’s so cool for the little kid. He’ll be coming back here until he’s 90 looking for those things,” Holt said.
Last summer, a couple visiting North Myrtle Beach from Virginia found a prehistoric tooth while standing in ankle-deep water.
In 2015, a father and daughter team made two trips here, and both times uncovered a large tooth, one near the Cherry Grove pier.
Holt advises that the best time to hunt for the fossils and other shark teeth is two hours before low tide, and with the sun at your back.
“It’s better to have the sun behind you for reflecting qualities,” Holt said. “You can soak up the beach a lot better if the sun is behind you.” The shell beds are the obvious places to hunt for teeth, but Holt says he has had better luck on the higher parts of the beach at the very edge of the high tide mark.
“The water comes up and deposits the teeth and the tide doesn’t have a chance to come back,” Holt said.
Smaller shark teeth are plentiful in the shell beds, where Holt says he would spend hours a day sifting sand through screens for the teeth, old and new.
Daniel C. Abel, a professor of marine science at Coastal Carolina University, says megalodon teeth are very common along the eastern coastline, especially in the sediments from the late Miocene period 10 million years ago.
The extinct sharks may have used some areas off the coast of South Carolina as nurseries, and the teeth are particularly common in the Cooper River, Abel said.