Searching for sharks’ teeth on Amelia Island is a regular seaside activity in Fernandina Beach, Florida. What has turned into a tradition and pastime here is fun, free, and family-friendly.
Besides the antiques in the shops along Centre Street in Fernandina’s historic district, Amelia Island’s shoreline also has antiquated treasure hiding in the sand or peeking out.
You don’t have to look far to see beachcombers hunting the black pointy relics, said to be millions of years old.
If Pirate’s Punch is the signature drink at Florida’s oldest saloon in Fernandina, sharks’ teeth are the signature seashore treasure of this barrier island. Well, one you can take home with you, at any rate. (Some may argue that Amelia Island’s sea turtles leave behind the treasure — their eggs that incubate beneath the surface sand.)
Amelia Island sharks’ teeth have been sourced to the dredging of the St. Mary’s river and reportedly dated to a 20-million-year-old geological deposit. The island receives material from this source in beach renourishment efforts. Shark teeth can be found all around Amelia’s beaches. Tides and currents disperse this natural treasure of fossilized teeth, much to the delight of beachcombers.
Younger children, especially, love to find the teeth and proudly bring them home to show friends their natural souvenir. Plenty of adults also like the challenge of scouring the shoreline. Many fine collections can be found in the dwellings of local residents.
Pictured are sharks’ teeth collected over many years here on Amelia Island (photo includes quarters for size perspective). Some prize finds are quite large and thrilling to discover. However, sometimes you can search and find none. But there’s no shortage of imposters. The seashore is often littered with broken shells. It’s surprising how many black shell fragments mimic the shape of a shark’s tooth.
While some days it seems an exercise in futility to find one, you will, at least, get some exercise. A stride forward and one back, bending and squatting as you examine the sand near the surf. A sort of shark tooth dance step practiced here daily. You’ll have your ups and downs both physically and mentally, when you think you scored only to discover it’s a good fake. There are times when best efforts produce none, even if you strain your eyes focusing on the beach underfoot with determination. (But if you do find one, stick around the same spot, as usually there are more to be found.) Some people take a different approach, opting to sit and dig in the sand, sifting through, like panning for gold. A beach toy sieve is ideal for this tactic.
Many of the fossilized shark teeth are black, sort of triangular in shape, and come in various sizes. Some teeth are a more muted greyish color with long, slender points. The best time to find shark teeth, according to savvy collectors, is around low tide and most concentrate on the damp to wet sand area at water’s edge. (Not to say the dry sand has none. One day I found a sizable tooth away from the water near the dune line.)
While some conditions may be better than others to facilitate a bountiful hunt (such as after a stormy “nor-easter”), the more you hunt, the better trained one’s eye becomes for spotting teeth. So, remember, patience is a virtue in the search for ancient sharks’ teeth.
If you happen not to find any teeth and you really want to see some and perhaps bring one home, check out Fernandina’s historic downtown Centre Street shops since some have shark teeth on display and for sale. (You can still give your child or grandchild the thrill of finding one by making a purchase and discreetly dropping it at the right moment — they may not be the wiser.)
Pictured, a few large fossilized sharks’ teeth along with various smaller sizes and shapes. These sharks’ teeth are a sampling of an actual collection of teeth found here on Amelia Island over several years.
Managing Editor, Amelia Island Living
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