Carolina Shark Tooth Dive
by Marko Tomko
Ask anyone who went on this trip an I think they will tell you they
had a good time, did some unusual diving, and brought up some good
Nine Sea Snoopers made their way south to Charleston, South Carolina
for our charter on the Cooper
River set for May 18th and 19th. Some of us camped or stayed in
cabins at a KOA campground in Ladbroke, about 16 miles outside of
Charleston; others stayed in various hotels or motels of their choosing.
Our event coordinator for the trip was Mike Brodzik, who had made
several previous trips to this location. Mike had whetted our appetites
for fossilized sharks' teeth by bringing some examples to several
club meetings during the winter. He also brought along petrified wood
and pieces of petrified bones from various kinds of animals. Most
of the stuff you find in the Cooper River is at least a million years
old or so, give or take 100,000 years.
The morning of May 18th we all showed up with our gear at a boat landing
about 17 miles from the sea on the Cooper River. The boat arrived
at 9:30 am and we loaded up. The weather was quite warm and humid
previous night was probably in the high seventies and very humid.
We scanned the area of the boat landing for alligators, but didn't
see any. With the absence of any sightings during the two days of
diving, they became less of a concern. The first area Captain Tom
stopped at looked a lot like most other areas of the river, but it
was out of the path of tugboats and barges moving up and down the
river. A slow current was flowing upstream due to the incoming tide.
The captain gave us a briefing about how to dive this low-visibilty
river and what to look for on the bottom. Jennifer and Matt, our two
divemasters/deckhands, assisted the divers getting suited up. I thought
they and the captain were both very helpful during the charter. Okay
It didn't hurt that Jennifer was really stacked and wearing a small
bikini. The guys may have taken a few glances at the natural wonders
Anyway, we were here for booty from the river bottom, not other kinds
of treasure, so we descended into the dark waters of the Cooper. All
the areas we dove in were about 40 feet deep, but we lost all light
after about 7 feet from the surface. With a good, powerful flashlight,
you could see about 2 feet on the bottom. You knew you were on the
bottom when you hit bottom! Water temperature was about 75 degrees,
and very comfortable with just farmer johns on. I also wore a hood
and my distinctive white helmet with headlamp for safety. The bottom
here consists of either clay or a soft limestone-type of material
called marl, which is like soft rock or hard clay, take your pick.
There is very little natural gravel on the bottom here like what we
are used to seeing in Michigan. Just about all the "gravel"
or rocks you see on the bottom are petrified wood or petrified bone
fragments. The trick is to pick up the most interesting pieces and
bring them up. Most buddy teams stayed very close to each other and
moved slowly around during their search. We had no safety problems
or incidents on this trip, I'm happy to say.
Near the end of the second dive on Saturday a pretty substantial thunderstorm
hit us, but the only small problem it caused was a delay in locating
the last three divers who were still down when it hit: Matt, Jackie
and Mike. Mike Brodzik especially, since he surfaced in the midst
of a hard downpour and was not able to see anything but a grey mist
at first. The biggest effect of this storm was the very cool air it
brought with it: Friday night my wife and I needed a fan inside our
camper, but Saturday night the temperature dropped so low that we
needed to run our furnace! The next morning on the river it was ccccold!
Most divers put on a full wetsuit before even boarding the dive boat.
Our first dive site was a little disappointing for visibility
less than a foot
.so we moved to a second one. Jackie, whose
findings had been a little skimpy on the first three dives, hit the
jackpot on the last dive and came up with a bucket load of fossil
teeth and petrified bones. Some of us had our share of murky water
"adventures" diving in the Cooper. Art Menard accidently
placed his hand on a large crab in the darkness, and Ron Sugg and
I had a very large ball of drifting seaweed sort of engulf our heads
on the last dive.
Charleston was a great place for after-dive activities and good sea
food eating. There is a lot of history and beautiful architecture
and gardens. Charleston Scuba also runs ocean charters to artificial
reefs and shipwrecks off shore, so we might want to consider re-doing
this trip next year and expanding it.