| Jordan Houston
WEST SPRINGFIELD – While The Meg – a movie that chronicles one man’s attempt to save people trapped inside a “sunken submersible” from a 70-foot shark – is taking over box offices across the country, the Eastern States Exposition offered a more accurate depiction of what the prehistoric shark species actually looked like.
The Big E hosted the annual East Coast Gem, Mineral and Fossil Show on the weekend of Aug. 10. The national tradeshow, which is the product of LLD Productions, attracted nature enthusiasts from across the country, including dealers, miners, artisans, crafters and shoppers. Around 200 retail and wholesale vendors were on-site, offering mineral specimens, fossils, gemstones, beads, jewelry, meteorites, crystals and geodes.
“You see little ones in strollers here, mineral collectors and curators from every museum in the country,” said LLD Productions President Laura Delano. “We use this as an educational tool as well. If you walk around, we have vendors that let you pan for minerals and fossils or some who have geode-cracking machines. So, kids can buy geodes and watch them crack to find a surprise inside. We try to engage the kids because they are the future of the hobby, so it’s important to get them interested in the show.”
This year’s special exhibit featured the David & Karen DeBruin Collection, which specializes in Midwest minerals, galena and apophyllite. The guest speakers included Bob Jones, Marty Zinn and Dudley Blauwet.
Children who attended the show were given a free mineral specimen, and were allowed to select an inexpensive geode to crack open.
One of this year’s highlights, however, was the Sharksteeth.com exhibit.
Sharksteeth.com has been in business since 1998, and carries partial, restored, commercial and collector grade teeth. The company's teeth are sourced from South Carolina, New Caledonia, Chile, Peru and other locations worldwide.
The internet-based company boasted an impressive display of shark-related items at this year’s Gem and Fossil show, ranging from fossilized to modern shark teeth.
Although the booth offered a plethora of shark teeth from sharks around the world, the crowd seemed most interested in its Megalodon inventory.
Megalodon, meaning “big tooth,” is a prehistoric species of shark that went extinct 2.6 million years ago. Scientists suggest the Meg looked like a stockier version of the Great White shark, although it was nearly three times bigger – growing up to 60 feet, according to Discovery. They swam in all oceans, minus the Atlantic.
Dubbed as one of the largest and most powerful predators to ever live, their large jaws could exert a bite force of up to 110,000 to 180,000 newtons. Their teeth were thick and robust, built for grabbing prey and breaking bone. They mainly fed on whales.
“There is a huge size difference between the teeth of a Great White and a Meg. With the Meg, the teeth get bigger, thicker, wider and longer,” said Sharksteeth.com Owner John Taylor. “The Meg teeth are very common to find, actually. On average, shark lose 20,000 teeth in a lifetime. If you times that by the millions of sharks and the millions of years they lived – you’d have enough teeth for everyone on the planet to have a million each.”
Bins of teeth from the Carcharocles Megalodon decorated the Sharksteeth.com booth. Many of the teeth were comparable to the size of a human hand, and cost from $30 to $300.
Taylor, who is an ex-Navy diver, dives for the teeth to sell in the exhibit with his partner John Kiminock in the rivers and coast of South Carolina. Before shark-tooth diving became his full-time job, he had experience in underwater welding and cutting for the Navy. He told Reminders Publishing that he got into the hobby by accident.
“We did a lot of different jobs in the Navy. Once during my spare time, we took a couple of scuba tanks up to a local river – we weren’t even looking for shark teeth,” said Taylor. “My buddy came up with a handful of them and I said, ‘God, are there sharks in here?’ and he said, ‘no, dummy, this is freshwater – these are fossilized.’ Because the ocean used to be in that area, but then receded, you can find these teeth in the rivers. So, we made them into little necklaces and sold them to other sailors. We found out they got as big as your hand, and from there, it kind of turned into a disease – I just love diving for them.”
With 28 years of diving experience under his belt, Taylor warns that diving for Megalodon teeth is not for the faint-hearted, especially in South Carolina.
High currents and low visibility make it difficult to maneuver in the waters – and then there’s the wildlife.
“It’s very dangerous – we’re diving in water that has high currents and a visibility of about 6 inches on average. I’ve gotten hit in the face by a stingray. We also have alligators in the rivers,” he said. “Another problem is the boaters, they don’t know what a dive flag is – it’s not required to have any boaters experience in South Carolina.”
Taylor’s biggest advice to people looking to get into the hobby is to go with experienced divers and learn about the currents of the waters, as well as the equipment needed – which could range from use of rubber gloves to powerful cave lights.
When asked if he thinks the Megalodon might still exist, he laughed and said no.
“I don’t believe there are any Megs left. I think with all the fishermen we have out there, we would have accidentally caught one by now or heard some kind of horror story,” said Taylor.
For more information about the East Coast Gem, Mineral and Fossil show head over to the LLD Productions website at https://www.mzexpos.com/east-coast-show.