South 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 finds.

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…the 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…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 around them.

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…..probably 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.

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