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Volume 15, Issue 12 ~ March 22 - March 28, 2007

Bay Reflections

My Find of a Lifetime

On Calvert beaches, get in touch with the past

by Michelle Steel

My shriek echoed off the cliffs, resounding across the Bay and down the sandy Willows Beach.

It was perfect: flawless, dusty brown colored, filling the palm of my hand. It measured three inches tall and two inches wide, to be exact. It was a fossil tooth from the spectacular white shark, carcharondon megladon. Truly, a rare gem to find along Calvert County shorelines.

I turned 40 this past September. Searching for the perfect tooth, I have been combing the sands along beaches in South Carolina, Florida, St. Mary’s County and Calvert County since I was five. My knack for spotting fossilized sharks teeth earned me the nickname Eagle Eye from my friends, who tease me and claim I have selective seeing. Sometimes, I cannot decipher between a sea gull and a white plastic bag at 20 yards. But I can spot a shark’s tooth the size of my thumbnail a mile away.

My dad was an avid shark-tooth seeker and finder. He was my teacher, sharing crucial lessons on this fine art. My mission began as a quest to share time with Dad, pleasing him in the process, as I searched and found great teeth.

After Dad passed away, I kept my passion for finding and collecting those brownish-black, shiny, pointed beauties. The jars of sharks’ teeth, most of them treasures Dad had found, filled up and multiplied over the years.

I was eager to begin my own collection. When my oldest sister and her husband moved to Dunkirk in the winter of 1985, I finally had a lifeline to the beaches of Calvert County.

She confirmed the stories of the awesome fossil finds along the beaches of Breezy Point, Bay Front Park and Calvert Cliffs.

It’s Chesapeake’s history that makes Calvert beaches among the best in the world for fossil finding. The Cliffs are located in the largest fossil-bearing deposit of Miocene marine sediments exposed along North America’s East Coast, according to the Maryland Geological Survey. Some 10 to 20 million years ago, the sediment settled underwater. Then when the ocean retreated, the cliff faces became exposed and eroded by wave action and storms, unlocking fossils millions of years old. These fossils — like the ones I’ve been scouring beaches for all my life — fall into the surf and are cast back onto shore. 

Last year I finally found my treasure buried in the sands of a Calvert County beach. That reward for a lifetime of searching appeared point-side-down, with only the top peeking through the damp sand along the shoreline where the water breaks.

This May marks my five-year anniversary residing in a Calvert County private beach community. I now share my family tradition with my own two boys. Their finds include Cowrie, sand and Mako sharks’ teeth. We are filling up new jars.

Editor’s note: Flag Ponds at Lusby made Coastal Living magazine’s 2007 list of America’s Top Ten beaches for winter shelling — right alongside Sanibel and other famous locales.

Michelle Steel reflects from Chesapeake Beach. This is her first story for Bay Weekly.

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