With two shark bites near Myrtle Beach, is it safe to go in the ocean? 

It’s a sign summer is here. The smell of salt in the air, children playing on the beach, and shark bites dominating local news headlines.

So far, there have been two shark bites off the coast of Myrtle Beach. The first was last month near Pawleys Island. Investigators say a man was bitten on the foot during a morning swim.

A few weeks later a 36-year-old woman was swimming off the coast of Folly Beach, which is just south of Myrtle Beach when she was bitten on her left foot.

Both victims have recovered.

Dr. Dan Abel, a marine biologist at Coastal Carolina University, says most of the time sharks have no interest in humans. But he says, there are some things you can do to prevent a trip to the hospital.

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 9.05.19 PM.png
Sign informing swimmers of beach warning flags at 48th Ave.               North in Myrtle Beach.             Photo: Sharon Tutrone

“Don’t swim at dawn or dusk. That is when many sharks feed,” said Abel. “Avoid swimming near piers where people are fishing and if you see a school of fish, get out of the water.”

What about that fin above the water line, does that mean a shark is coming after you?

“No, that does not mean they are coming after you. Most of the time people see a wave or a dolphin,” said Caroline Collatos, a graduate student in the marine science department. “Sharks rarely do this, and when they do, they’re coming to the surface to eat a piece of fish scrap, or they may be chasing prey that swam up to the surface.”

There is a small chance that a shark will bite you, but if you do go in the ocean here are some tips to make that risk even lower.

  1. Swim in a group. Sharks usually bite someone swimming alone.
  2. Don’t swim too far from shore. Doing so places you away from help.
  3. If you are bleeding, don’t enter the water. Sharks can smell blood, and trace it back to its source.
  4. Keep shiny jewelry at home. The reflection of the light looks like shining fish scales.
  5. Don’t swim in waters containing sewage. Sewage attracts bait fish, which attract sharks.

For more beach safety tips click here.

Cue the JAWS music, gifts from the sea are spilling onto our shores

Call it a game of cat and mouse or being in the right place at the right time, but either way you look at it, shark tooth hunters all share a common goal: to find a piece of ocean history.

“Shark’s teeth are more than a collector’s item, they tell a story about each shark that swam in the waters off our coast,” said Peter Brimlow, a shark tooth collector.

Walking the shoreline in Myrtle Beach, it was a cold morning; a winter storm was brewing and the sun was just cresting over the horizon. Brimlow was focused on the sand, carefully looking before taking his next step. He was walking on glass. Each step was so gentle and careful. He didn’t want to miss a tooth waiting to be discovered.

“A friend introduced me to shark tooth hunting several years ago right here in Myrtle Beach,” Brimlow said. “I was addicted to searching for them instantly.”

He said he has been collecting shark’s teeth for several years and has more than 11,000.

For others, shark tooth hunting is “Something to do in between sun-tanning, body-surfing and people-watching,” said Mark Kruea, a shark tooth collector.

Kruea said he has been collecting shark’s teeth for several years and has thousands. He said he got into the hobby because of the thrill of the hunt.

“You know they exist, but can you find them?” Kruea said. “It’s like a miniature treasure hunt. Each discovery is satisfying.”

Even though he has never found a big tooth “The search and the find are satisfying enough,” said Kruea.

Shark tooth hunting is a serious hobby.

It requires getting up sometimes before the sun and hitting the beach during low tide. That is the best time because the tide lines or the lines of debris are exposed. According to Danielle’s Dive Blog, walk that line and look for black triangles. These are the sharks’ teeth.

Brimlow said it’s something about the jet-black shine of the teeth to the thought of where they came from that fuels his passion.

“Were they here offshore or have they traveled the oceans for years and finally presented themselves for me to find,” said Brimlow.

According to chemistry.about.com shark’s teeth start to turn black after being buried in sediments. The teeth  absorb surrounding minerals, turning them from a normal whitish tooth color to black, gray, or tan. The fossilization process takes at least 10,000 years, although some fossil shark’s teeth are millions of years old

Here’s another piece of shark tooth trivia for you. If you do find a tooth, take a close look at it. Look for serrations or little ridges running up and down the side of the tooth.

“Serrations on a side of a tooth tell us that tooth was a shearing tooth,” said Dr. Daniel Abel, a marine biologist at Coastal Carolina University.  “A shark would approach its prey from the bottom, perform a slashing cut into the animal and let it bleed out, then will eat it.”

So, as the tables have turned and we are now hunting the hunter, remember this piece of shark tooth hunting advice. Get out there and start looking for your gift from the sea.