Thursday, April 26, 2012

Oh The Shark Has Fossilized Teeth, Dear

On Thursday I drove to Venice Florida to Florida West Scuba and Charters for a shark tooth dive. These shark tooth dives were to be dives 200 and 201 for me.

I had been worried that the charter might be cancelled on account of some storms moving into the area and a thunderstorm the night before, but arriving at the dive shop at 6:30 I was warmly greeted by the staff and assured that the dives were on. After completing the waiver and buying a shark tooth bag I loaded my gear on the boat and got my single tank setup assembled. We had a full boat with 12 divers on board plus the captain and dive master. The charter was well organized and they run a smooth and professional operation.

Venice, Florida is a location famous for its fossilized shark teeth and animal bones. The most prolific bones found are those of the Dugong. The Dugong is an ancient large mammalian ancestor of the manatee, with very dense bones so that it could sink and counter its fat for buoyancy conmtrol, whose main purpose in life seems to have been as a snack for the Megaladons, Great Whites, bull sharks and other shark species in the area. As a result Venice is a home to many amazing fossilized shark teeth and bones.

The boat captain began the dive briefing with the standard safety warnings for the boat then stated that this was a dive that broke all the rules - the visibility was about 6 feet so forget about buddy diving as you'd be face down searching for fossils anyways, everyone would carry a float. he also stated you could touch everything you liked down there in your search for fossils, but he suggested avoiding touching the sea urchins.

So in we went. The water was a warm 75 degrees so I had on a 3/2 mm wetsuit, the charter's aluminum 80 tank and my gear. There was a fair bit of current at the surface so we had to jump off the stern, swim forward to the bow which was facing 180 degrees, descend and continue on the 180 heading so we could return with the current rather than against it.

On the first dive, I decided to not bring the camera and get comfortable in the environment before adding the distractions a camera can bring. I did bring it along on the second dive. The water was warm, the viz not great but there were fossils to be found, not to mention some fish to see. There was also the theme song from Jaws playing in the background during the dive for some reason, and not being able to see beyond 6 feet away on one's own was a very different feeling from my typical team dives. After all, when you get into the ocean you do have the potential for becoming part of the food chain, and not necessarily at the top.

The bottom had a lot of stuff on it, and I started a search pattern for teeth and interesting objects.

the search wasn't easy as the teeth tend to blend in with the bottom clutter and it takes focusing on a small area at a time while being careful to keep your buoyancy and trim above the bottom as you search to avoid a silt cloud destroying your search area.

And there were many sea urchins about to stab the unwary

There were also some neat star fish and other interesting lifeforms on the bottom:

On the dive, quite a few fish would follow me around, either to tease me that I hadn't found a large haul of shark's teeth or to cadge a snack when I pulled up a fossil and raised some particulate in the water, and this guy was particularly persistent, always darting right in front of my mask.

The fish would poke around the spot where a fossil was retrieved, looking for food:

I didn't find any huge Megaladon teeth, but I did find shark teeth!

This one is half of a Great White Shark Tooth, cleaved cleanly in half. At 2 inches in blade length, the shark this came from was around 18-20 feet long. That's one big shark.

This one is a complete bull shark tooth:

I'll clean the pink coral coating off later and we'll see the actual colors of the teeth.

I also found many massive thick and solid Dugon bones, cleaved cleanly through by some massive shark jaws:

These are Dugong rib bones:

Tip of a Dugong rib:

Both dives lasted about 55 minutes and it was a great experience. Florida West Scuba and Charters runs a great charter so I'd highly recommend them if you get a chance to go diving in the area. After the dives we returned to shore and the dive shop to return the tanks and rinse my gear, and of course to buy the required T-Shirt signifying a successful dive. There was a bar conveniently located beside the dive shop and I ordered some fried grouper which was excellent.

Dives 200 and 201 were absolutely excellent. Great weather, warm water and shark's teeth taken as trophies. What could be better than that for a Venice, Florida dive experience?


Scott said...

Did Tash and the girls have an exciting adventure while you were out being a marine paleontologist? Or is that tomorrow's post?

Aaron said...

They had a relaxing day on the beach, in the ocean and in the pool.

But the next day they had an exciting outing.