From October the 9, till October the 20, I went on a fossil collecting trip to the U.S.A. We went with six guys, being René van Vliet, René de Voogd, Jan Boes, Walter van Remoortel, Geert den Borger and myself, Patrick Hendriks. During our stay I wrote down my impressions. Down here is a short version of our trip. Hope you enjoy reading it. Please don't mind any mistakes in this writing, for it is not my native language.
Today it’s finally going to happen. We’re leaving for the U.S.A. to search for fossils for 9 days. The day before we left, we slept at the place of one of the guys who is also joining us on this trip. The next morning at 03.30 hours we packed our stuff and took the car to the airport of Brussels, Belgium. From Brussels we left for London, than to Dulles airport, Washington and finally to Charleston, South Carolina. We left Belgium around 07.30 and arrived at Charleston airport around 18.45 local time. There is a time difference of 6 hours between the Netherlands and the U.S.A. so our trip took us almost 18 hours. In Charleston we picked up our rental cars and left for Summerville. It took us a while before we arrived at our hotel, because our navigation system seemed to re-route us around our hotel, without arriving at our destination. But finally we arrived and together with my room mate Jan Boes we unpacked our stuff because we will stay here for 4 days.
Later that night we went to the K-market to get some things for the coming days, and also we had to buy some shuffles so that we could dig for the fossils. These are really huge markets; we don’t have them in the Netherlands. Also René tried to get in touch with our friends who should join us tomorrow, and who would get us to some fossil locations. But he couldn’t reach them so we are still thinking what we will do tomorrow. But we got enough locations of our own so there won’t be any problem. However, the humidity and temperature will be a problem when we are searching for fossils. According to the news it hasn’t been this warm since 10 years. But that’s a problem for tomorrow.
Pictures of Friday
This morning at 6 o’clock our alarm went off. After putting on my clothes and brushing my teeth it’s off to breakfast. Our breakfast room is a rebuild hotel room with a coffee machine and some donuts, very different of what I’m eating at home. After our breakfast we first had to shop for some hardheads and some shuffles. In the meanwhile René contacted our American friends who will be our guides for the next three days. They will meet us at 10 o’clock at our motel. With some few hours left before its 10 o’clock, we are touring around, looking for some places were we can find our first teeth of the trip. Unfortunately we can’t find any good places so we return to our hotel. While waiting I looked around at some places near our hotel and here I find my first two teeth of the trip.
At 10 o’clock, Steve an Eddie arrived at our motel. They are very nice guys, and they will be our guides for the next three days. And then we go. Our first location is a place were they dumped some sand from a nearby made lake. The place has been searched over for several years, so the finds aren’t that great, but still we found some nice things.
So of it is to our second location. It’s a creek were, according to Steve and Eddie, we will find a lot of teeth. The water level was very low, so it was perfect for searching some shark teeth. When we arrived at our spot we immediately started to look for teeth, and there they were. The temperature was very high, but standing in the water really helps us cooling down. In the afternoon two thunderstorms brought the temperature down quit a bit. So then it was really a nice temperature to do some digging. We all find a lot of teeth. I personally found 7 complete and partial C. angustidens and C. auriculatus, and also I found a lot of hemipristis. At 18.30 hours we called it a day and left for our motel. After a great shower it’s time to clean the teeth and look at what we have found this day.
Pictures of Saturday
Today we are going to a quarry to search for some very nice C. auriculatus. At 8.15 we left to drive to our meeting point near the quarry. When we arrived there we got a very warm welcome from John. He is one of our other friends who took us out for a search during our stay. John is a very nice, friendly and generous guy. At 9.15 everybody has arrived and we drove in to the quarry. In total we are with 12 persons, and we will visit some 5 locations this day.
The first place is an area to adjust our eyes at the terrain so that it will be easier for us to look for teeth at the other sections. Most of us already find here some auriculatus. Especially René, who seams to have some kind of radar for these teeth. He’s just picking them up, one after another.
Than of it is to the second location. Here we find a lot of smaller teeth. But Jan en Walter both found here a beautiful auriculatus. After that we all went for a short lunch break at a nearby tank station. There we all sit around and we are giving away some off the Dutch and Belgium shark teeth that we brought with us. We had some nice talks and we all seamed to get on very well with each other. About 45 minutes later we went back to try our luck again.
So here we are at our third location. This should be it. The place were we would find our nicest teeth of the day. But how disappointed are we when there are only a few teeth found, and most of them have some damage.
So of it is again to another location. But when we arrived here a bulldozer has put some sand over the area. Still we walked this place hoping to find some teeth. And I have to say that I was lucky here. I found three auriculatus, but they all had some form of damage.
Then we went to our last location. We all knew that we wouldn’t find any big teeth here, but only some small ones. We all found a lot of small teeth here and there were also some auriculatus being found. I found a very large Nebrius thilensus, which all the others loved. They never had seen such a big one here.
Having some time to spare this day we all went back to our second location again to look over it ones more. Everybody is finding some very nice small teeth again, but no auriculatus. But looking at the whole day it was a very good day with some very nice finds. And in the end I think that everybody was happy with what they found. The people we searched with that day are very nice, and I made several new friends. And I think that’s what it’s all about. Having a good time, finding some nice teeth and making some new friends. What could one ask more?
Pictures of Sunday
Today we would go on another trip with Steve and Eddie, but Eddie’s father was brought to a hospital so they both couldn’t come. So off we went on our own. We decided to go back to the creek from our first day. First Walter and I dropped of the rest of the guys before we parked our cars. When the other guys were walking towards the creek they had an encounter with a 1,5 meter long grass snake. A little while later Walter and I arrived, and the six of us enthusiastically started to search for shark teeth again. Again this creek brought me some good luck. I hit a perfect place, and in every sift I searched threw I found several teeth, and in almost every sift there was a piece of auriculates. At the end of the day I had 24 auriculatus, but unfortunately only 6 of them were complete. I also found a very nice squalodon tooth. The only bad thing that happened this day was that I had a very close encounter with a snake. To close for me, if you ask. I just had put a sift full of material on the river bank and was looking threw it, when a snake put his head over the left side of my sift. It scared the living daylight out of me. When I stepped back of my sift, it kept following me with his head. René de Voogd took some pictures of it before it disappeared, but we didn’t know where it went. In the water or on the land. So the last hour of that day, when I put my hands in the water, I every time had the idée that I felt a snake.
This evening we would visit Eddie at his home, so after a quick shower and something to eat it was of to Eddie. On our way to Eddie we lost our leading car. We almost landed on somebody ells his driveway, because we were following the wrong car. After 10 minutes and a lot of talking threw the phone we managed to find each other again. We had a great time at Eddie’s place. He showed us some beautiful fossils of his own collection, including the skull of a lion and some Indian artefacts.
Pictures of Monday
Today we are leaving for North Carolina, but before we left we visited a little creek in Summerville. There wasn’t much to find here so at 11 o’clock we stepped in our cars and went on our way to Greenville, North Carolina. It was quit a trip. It’s very different than the Netherlands. If you drive here on the highway, you always see some houses or villages, but here you can drive for a very long time without seeing any houses. The only things that I saw frequently were the road kills and the birds of prey in the sky.
After about a five hour drive we arrived at Greenville. Because we arrived here this early, we immediately went to the Green mill run creek were I hoped to find some Squalicorax. Here also the finds were a little disappointing. I found a very nice Galeocerdo cuvier, and some small rolled S. kaupi and two rolled S. bassani, but I didn’t find that perfect one. That was found by Walter. He found a perfect Squalicorax pristodontus. When we arrived back at the parking lot he gave me that one, saying that it would look better in my collection than in his. What a nice thing to do.
We hadn’t made a reservation in the motel we would like to stay, so when we arrived they didn’t have any places for us. Luckily though there is more than one motel in Greenville, so it didn’t take us long to find another one. So we put down our stuff and prepared for the next day, because tomorrow we are going to Aurora.
Pictures of Tuesday
Today we are going to the PCS phosphate mine in Aurora. We already knew that we wouldn’t be able to go inside the mine itself, because they were reconstructing the search area. When we arrived I looked at a huge hole in the ground. It really is a big hole that they have dug there. We were hoping to find some nice little piles of rejected material.
Our first place we stopped at was a newly constructed parking place for the employees of the mine. They used rejected material to construct it. They had also constructed a small wall around it from the same rejected material. This wall was loaded with shark teeth. So down on our knees we went, and very carefully we were crawling around picking up one tooth after another. My best finds that day were a squalodon tooth and a small C. chubutensis that was almost perfect.
After a while we drove on to another parking lot. Here there were two piles of rejected material. Also there was some water nearby so that we could use our sifts and wash all the sand away. Here we also found a lot of teeth, including some very nice alopias. After looking to those piles we went for a visit to the museum. When one is looking at the Megs they have here, the water is almost running out of your mouth. Awesome. After visiting the museum we, of course, had to search the piles of material in front of the museum. Her I had another good find this day, a perfect catticus came out. Again it was a great day with some perfect finds.
Pictures of Wednesday
Today we are trying our luck at the Onslow quarry in Onslow. The whole trip towards the quarry it rained, as it also had done the night before. After reporting ourselves at the front desk we were escorted to the fossil side. When we arrived at this side, we soon noticed that it was very muddy, and that it wouldn’t be easy to find any teeth at all. But on our way we went, looking and searching around. We met a local collector who gave us some tips that would improve our change to find something. But it wasn’t that easy. You had to go with your hands threw the grey mud trying to feel the teeth that could be in it. I only found 4 teeth there, and that was more than the most of us had. One tooth I’ve found looked to be a very big mako, but when I cleaned it at our motel it turned out to be a rolled Great white. A nice find after all.
We stayed here just for a very short time before we decided to drive for another hour towards Rocky-point. Here it also would be possible to find some very nice auriculatus. Our trip towards Rocky-point turned from a rainy one into a trip with lots of sunshine. So when we arrived at Rocky-point and were brought to the collecting side we had a very nice day with a clear sky and a lot of sun. Also the soil is different here than in Onslow quarry so it wasn’t muddy at all.
So here we are again. Bending our backs, and focusing our eyes on the ground, looking for any sine that could be a beautiful tooth. But the finds were very few to almost none. The only teeth we are finding are some little ones, and they are very few in numbers. So after a while I started collecting sea-urchins, because they are very easy to find. At one time we walked across an area were I could just pick them up of the ground. There were so many of them that I left every urchin behind that had some sort of damage, and I kept only the perfect ones. The only person who found a reasonably nice auriculatus was Jan. We didn’t stay long at Rocky point, because later that day we had an appointment with George Powell.
George Powell is collecting fossils for over 50 years. Mostly from the Potomac River en PCS mine in Aurora. He has built his own museum to show his own collection to other people. This man has some amazing pieces in his collection. Just incredible. We arrived at his place around 7.30 pm. and left around midnight. All this time we had been talking about fossils and time just went by. After driving back from George we all gathered to talk about the day, George his collection and what we will do tomorrow. During this time we al drunk some bears, and before we knew it, it was 2.30 in the morning, and we had to get up again at 7. So this would be a short night.
Pictures of Thursday
Today it was an early rise. So with some sleep still left in our eyes we went on our way to Belgrade quarry in Onslow. Arriving at the mine, we reported us in at the front desk. Here also we were brought to the collecting side by an employee of the mine (they won’t do that in the Netherlands and Belgium). Immediately everyone scattered around the place hoping to find some nice teeth. Almost immediately I found a small Great white, but after that it went dead for a wile. The others had also found some very nice things, including several crocodile teeth. Walter, Geert and René de Voogd each found one, and Jan even found three. But that seamed to be it for this location. However there was an other location in this quarry were we also had been allowed to search.
When we arrived at this location we noticed that this was all new material that they put down here. There already was a local searching at this place, so we went over to him to ask what he already had found. He told us that he had been here for two hours, and in this time he only had found five teeth. This didn’t look good. But with good hopes we started to search the ground. Some small teeth were found, but nothing spectacular. After a while we heard René van Vliet shouting from down of the base where we were collecting. When we met up with him he showed us three auriculates, and one of them was in perfect condition. So everybody started to search this area hoping to find a beautiful tooth. But nobody did, with the exception of René. He found number four and five.
We found less here than at our first location, so we all decided to go back again. Here we all found some nice teeth. I found a nice dermal ray plate, but when I picked it up it brook down in three pieces. René van Vliet had a top day. When searching this area again he found a perfect symphisial notorynchus tooth, with a perfect bleu crown and a crème coloured root. It was his best day yet.
Pictures of Friday
Today we are going back to Aurora, hoping to find some other piles of rejected material. The first spot we hit were some little piles lying in the field. As small as these piles were, they produced a lot of teeth. So everybody was picking up one tooth after another. After a while we drove on to another place. When looking around for a good place, we spotted a newly constructed road. We parked our cars and started walking the road. This road was also made of material that came out of the mine, and we noticed several teeth (including several small Megs) imbedded in the road. The only problem with these teeth were that they al had been crushed by the machines who made this road. On the edges of the road however, there was a little wall of material that had been pushed aside. So we lay ourselves down and started to look threw this material. This material was loaded with small teeth. So after a short while we all had collected a lot of teeth. I even again found several small Megs. The colours of these teeth were awesome, from light blue to crème.
After searching these small walls for a while a man came up taking some pictures of us. His name was Fred; he was a retired marine biologist who is writing some hunting reports for the local newspaper. He was wondering what six guys on their knees are doing on a road in the middle of nowhere. So we started to talk with each other, telling him that we are from the Netherlands and Belgium, and that we are on a fossil collecting trip. At the end he invited us for a “pig” nicking over at his place. He told us that every year he and his neighbours held a pig nicking and that he would like it very much if we accepted his invitation. Of course we gladly accepted, because this would be a nice opportunity the meet some Americans and share some thoughts with them.
After searching for a while longer we gathered our teeth and went on our way to Fred. Fred had a nice place at the creek near aurora. He made us feel very welcome at his place. He is a very nice man with a warm hart. We stayed a little wile at his place talking about collecting shark teeth, fishing and hunting. Also we talked about all the things that he had done in his life, his family and some other things. After finishing our beers we went to the pig-nicking were he introduced us to his neighbours. They al had made some food at home and brought it with them. So al the food we saw was perfect and delicious. It was one of our best meals we had during our stay. Also the people were very nice. They really made us feel welcome. We had a lot of talks, and also we had some horseshoe throwing games. It was a perfect evening, meeting some locals and feeling something of the American hospitality. Around midnight we had to leave because it still was a long drive back to our hotels, and as you can guess, we had to wake up early the next morning. When we left Fred invited us over for a stay if we ever would come back to the U.S. He also warned us for the deer on the road when we travelled back. And we saw a lot of them, but the next day we would even see a bigger surprise.
Pictures of Saturday
Today is our last search day. Tomorrow we are leaving for home again. But first we would meet John Powell today. He would take us to his secret place to search some fossils with us. We met up with John at his place to look at his collection and do some trading with each other. John is specialised in fossil legs from animals from the Palaeogene era. He is trying to collect a complete leg from almost every animal that lived during that period. After looking at his collection and some trading he took us to his secret place.
So we left with three cars, with John in front. John’s place was an old sand quarry with a couple of gravel piles were we could find the fossils. At first we had our thoughts about this place, but when we started to look around we all found several nice teeth. I personally had a good time at this place, at first I found a reasonably nice Great white, than several Galeocerdo cuviers, bull shark and mako’s. And almost at the end I saw this big auriculates lying in the sand. I almost didn’t dare to take it out because I was afraid that it would brake in several pieces. But when I took it out it still remains complete, but unfortunately, the two side cusps were missing. After collecting here for a few hours we said goodbye to John and travelled back to our motel.
On our way back to the motel we had a quick stop at Aurora again. It is hard to quit collecting when you’re so close to all these teeth. So first we went back to our parking lot where I again found a nice little chub. It just missed his top, but it’s still a nice one. I also found several very nice other teeth, including some hemi’s, bull’s and mako’s. Then we had a quick stop at a light post in Aurora self. Jan found here an almost perfect pathological Meg, a beauty of a tooth. But that was it. Time caught up with us and we finally had to leave to pack our stuff and get ready for the next day.
Pictures of Sunday
Today we are going home. Our trip has reached his end. I had a wonderful time in the United States. I've found some nice teeth, and I sure can't complain about the number of teeth that I've found. Also I made some great new friends with who I could share my passion of collecting shark teeth. I wouldn't minded it if we would have stayed for some more days, but I'm also glad to see my wife and two sons again. And when I'm home I still have the pleasure of sorting out all the teeth that I've found. It was a great trip, and i would like to thank René, René, Jan, Walter and Geert for their great companionship during our stay.
And who knows next year.
Pictures of Monday
When I look back at my trip to the States, I have to say that it was a perfect one. Being there with six of my friends, sharing the same hobby is a wonderful thing to do. Also meeting all my new friends I’ve made here has made this trip an unforgettable experience. Also the fact that I found over more than 5000 teeth made this trip a trip I will never forget.