Amelia Island’s shoreline has treasure in the sand. Searching for sharks’ teeth in Fernandina Beach is a regular seaside ritual. The coastal activity has turned into a tradition here and it’s fun, free, and family-friendly. You don’t have to look far to see beachcombers hunting the black pointy relics, said to be millions of years old.
Pictured here are sharks’ teeth collected on Amelia Island (photo includes quarters for size perspective). Some prize finds are quite large and thrilling to discover. Many of the fossilized shark teeth are black, sort of triangular in shape, and come in various sizes. Some teeth are a muted grayish color, some have long, slender points.
Amelia Island sharks’ teeth are sourced to the dredging of nearby channel to the north and west. The teeth are said to date back to a 20-million-year-old geological deposit. Over time, tides, currents and “beach nourishment” projects disperse this natural treasure of fossilized shark teeth along the shoreline much to the delight of beachcombers.
Fernandina’s beach nourishment projects go hand in hand with dredging maintenance of the marine channel off Amelia Island’s northern tip (adjacent to Fort Clinch). An important cargo corridor of Fernandina’s harbor port, this waterway is also used by the Trident submarines of nearby Georgia’s Kings Bay Navy base (also see related article, “Sand, Submarines and Sea Turtles”.)
Finding Shark Teeth
A sort of shark tooth dance step is practiced here daily. A stride forward and one back, bending and squatting while examining the sand near the surf. While some days are an exercise in futility to find one, figure on getting a bit of physical exercise as a consolation prize. Not to mention the seaside setting is a win-win itself — beach combing along a lovely seashore.
You’ll soon learn there is 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. You’ll have your ups and downs physically (and mentally). Thinking you’ve scored for a moment, you’ll then realize it’s a good fake.
Best Time To Find Shark Teeth?
According to some savvy collectors, it’s around low tide and some concentrate on the damp to wet sand area near water’s edge.
On certain days, conditions may be better than others to facilitate a bountiful hunt (prime time after a stormy “nor-easter”). However, the more you hunt, the better trained one’s eye becomes for spotting teeth. Patience is a virtue in the search for ancient sharks’ teeth.
With that said, there are times when the best efforts produce none, even if you strain your eyes. But when you have success, stick around the same spot since usually there are more to be found after the first one is spotted.
Some people take a different approach entirely, opting to sit and dig in dry sand, sifting through, like panning for gold. A beach toy sieve is ideal for this tactic.
Younger children, especially, love to find the teeth and proudly bring home a 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.
Beach Nourishment Projects
While shark teeth can be found all around Amelia’s beaches, odds may be better to find shark teeth in beach areas that have more recently undergone a sand placement project. Sand from dredging is pumped onto segments of the beach. “Beach nourishment” projects are conducted intermittently during winter months (but typically not every year). However, two consecutive years had active projects (winter 2017/2018 and winter 2018/2019), most recently happening between December 2018 through March 2019. Read related article: “Sand, Submarines and Sea Turtles,” with an Amelia Island video, beach map and photos explaining Fernandina’s beach nourishment process.