• "Celebrating the Richness of Paleontology through Fossil Hunting"

Cooper River Dive Trip

What's it like to dive the cooper? Watch this Youtube video!

Video showing what it's like to dive for fossil shark teeth in the Cooper River.


The dive group from the fossil dive trip.  Left to right is: Fossil Legend Lee Cone, Ted of nautiloid.net, and me.

The dive group from the fossil dive trip. Left to right is: Fossil Legend Lee Cone, Ted of Nautiloid.net, and me. Ted has a perfect 5" megalodon shark tooth!




Fossil Diving in the Cooper River for Fossil shark teeth


The Cooper River is a world hotspot for fossil shark teeth. This summer a few adventurous divers met for a weeklong Cooper River dive trip. The divers were fossil legend Lee Cone, Trilobite aficionado Ted of The Nautiloid Network, and me. We chartered with Mark Johnson of www.divethecooper.com for the fossil dive trip.

Why are there fossils here?

Why is the Cooper River a hotspot? The geology of the area is very confusing, but in a nutshell, this river (and the other rivers) in coastal South Carolina cut through numerous layers of fossil bearing formations.

These formations include the Pleistocene Wando Formation, Pliocene Waccamaw Formation and Goose Creek Limestone, the Oligocene Ashley and Chandler Bridge formations, and many others. To complicate matters many of these formations contain older reworked fossils. A reworked fossil is a fossil that has eroded from its original layer, washed into a "bone bed" with other eroded fossils, and then because of sea level changes, became reburied into a younger formation.

Today, the Cooper river and adjacent rivers carve into these formations and erode out fossils. Due to currents, these fossils often accumulate in gravel beds on the river bottom. Adventurous divers can dive the Blackwater rivers and search these gravel beds for fossils.

What is it like to dive here?

For those who have not dove the Lowcountry Blackwater rivers, it's a unique and challenging experience. The river tannins make the water a dark brown color with very little visibility. At around 20 feet of depth, the sunlight is completely blocked and it's pitch black. By 35 feet, strong dive lights will only cut through the tannins by a few inches. On top of this, the bottom of the rivers are full of dead trees that easily catch and tangle dive gear. Since these are tidal rivers, the currents are often strong and can roll trees along the river bottom. If this isn't enough, mud balls made of the Lowcountry pluff mud will also roll down the river bottom. This makes dive helmets a necessity. Further, to compensate for the strong currents, one must add extra weight to their dive suit and use screwdrivers to dig into the river bottom and crawl. Compasses are mandatory for navigation. Finally, the rivers are full of alligators and sharks.

Why would anyone want to do this?

FOSSILS! We did pretty good during the trip, hitting numerous spots a day. Some dives were spent crawling around looking for gravel beds, but we ended up finding the gravel beds most of the dives. There were, of course, a few issues. One time someone forgot to strap on their dive helmet. As soon as they jumped in, the helmet with all the lights got lost to the sea! I lost a dive strap and screwdriver, luckily there were spares. One dive, I jumped in without my flippers. Since one doesn't really swim, but instead crawls, I didn't notice until I was on the bottom. By that time, I couldn't surface, because the strong currents would have put me way behind the boat. Instead, I spent the dive walking across the river, using my compass to get to the rendezvous point. On the bright side, we only surfaced near 1 large Alligator during the entire trip!

Besides for these mishaps, it was a great trip! It was nice to catch up with Lee and meet Ted. Speaking of Ted, he found the fossil of the trip, a really nice 5" megalodon. Lee found a nice 4" class megalodon, and I found a few nice 3" class ones and some larger angustidens teeth. We all found TONS of nice smaller teeth and other fossils, such as Giant Ground Sloth, Crocodile, Turtle, Horse, Whale, and even Mastodon material.

Make sure you check out the images below and view the dive video above! Thank you, Lee, for inviting me, and thank you Mark of www.divethecooper.com for the charter!

If you want to see some of Ted's finds, check out his Cooper River page.




The sea requires offerings to grant safe passage. What offerings to Poseidon should one make to ensure safety? Apparently, these were our offerings:

Dive Helmet with lights (lost to the sea)
Flipper Strap (lost to the sea)
Screwdriver (lost to the sea)
Hat (recovered)
Flippers (forgotten - yes, there was a flipperless dive)
Dive Helmet (forgotten)
Water proof cap for dive light (forgotten)

Poseidon enjoyed these offerings and granted us safety in the harsh sea!





Images of the fossil hunt and the trip

My best fossil megalodon shark teeth from the Cooper River dive trip.

My best fossil megalodon shark teeth from the Cooper River dive trip. A black 3.75" megalodon, and a very colorful 3.6" megalodon.


My best angustidens fossil shark teeth from the trip.  All are banged up.  The large one is 4 inches with feeding damage.  It would have been 4.5 inches if complete.

My best angustidens fossil shark teeth from the trip. All are banged up. The large one is 4 inches with feeding damage. It would have been 4.5 inches if complete.


Three perfect Great White shark teeth from the dive trip.  They are all between 1.75 and 2 inches, but all razor sharp.

Three perfect Great White shark teeth from the dive trip. They are all between 1.75 and 2 inches, but all razor sharp.


This is a beautiful Giant Ground Sloth tooth.  It looks small, but it came from a HUGE animal!

This is a beautiful Giant Ground Sloth tooth. It looks small, but it came from a HUGE animal!


This is a scute and a partial jaw fragment from an alligator or crocodile.

This is a scute and a partial jaw fragment from an alligator or crocodile.


This is my most colorful megalodon shark tooth fossil.  It's 3.6 inches in size with swirls of white, blue, brown, and red!

This is my most colorful megalodon shark tooth fossil. It's 3.6 inches in size with swirls of white, blue, brown, and red!


750

A fossil Angustidens shark tooth found while diving in the Cooper River


A megalodon shark tooth found while diving in the Cooper River

A megalodon shark tooth found while diving in the Cooper River


This is a perfect Great White fossil shark tooth lying on the bottom of the Cooper River.

This is a perfect Great White fossil shark tooth lying on the bottom of the Cooper River.


This is a shark vertebra laying on the bottom of the Cooper River mixed in with bone fragments.

This is a shark vertebra laying on the bottom of the Cooper River mixed in with bone fragments.


A 3.75 inch megalodon tooth found while diving.

A 3.75 inch megalodon tooth found while diving.


My

My heartbreaker of the trip, a broken 6 inch megalodon.


This is a piece of large land mammal femur.  Based on the size and thickness, it might be part of a Mastodon femur.

This is a piece of large land mammal femur. Based on the size and thickness, it might be part of a Mastodon femur.


A bunch of broken teeth found while looking for whole fossils!

A bunch of broken teeth found while looking for whole fossils! These broken teeth are used in Education and Outreach.


Broken fossil shark teeth found in the Cooper River, South Carolina.

Broken fossil shark teeth found in the Cooper River, South Carolina. These broken teeth are used in Education and Outreach.


Sunrise on the Cooper River

Sunrise on the Cooper River


My finds from the dive trip

My finds from the dive trip


Pottery fragments found along the bottom of the Cooper River.  Some are Native American pottery and others are Colonial Era Plantation pottery.

Pottery fragments found along the bottom of the Cooper River. Some are Native American pottery and others are Colonial Era Plantation pottery.




Recommended Books and Fossils:




Fossil Diving Identification Guide
By: Daniel Berg, 2009

This is the Blackwater Fossil Diving Identification Guide. It is packed with images and information. If you are interested in blackwater diving, this is a must read.



Shark Tooth Hunting on the Carolina Coast
By: Ashley Oliphant, 2015
A guide on how to find and identify fossil shark teeth on the North and South Carolina beaches. It also has an easy to use section for shark teeth identification. If you want to find shark teeth in the Carolinas, read this book first!




Get Your Very Own Megalodon Tooth:

These are Authentic Megalodon teeth sold by Fossil Era , a reputable fossil dealer (that I personally know) who turned his fossil passion into a business. His Megalodon teeth come in all sizes and prices, from small and inexpensive to large muesum quality teeth. Each tooth has a detailed descriptions and images that include its collecting location and formation. If you are looking for a megalodon tooth, browse through these selections!



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