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Church Hill's Overbey enjoys her own 'shark week' every year

Deborah Peterson • Jul 22, 2019 at 4:30 PM

When you think of summer beach vacations, you may think of swimming, fishing, sunning and surfing. But to Church Hill resident Wendi Overbey, a trip to the beach also means some serious shark tooth hunting.

Every summer, her family spends two weeks in North Myrtle Beach. Several years ago, her brother-in-law Thomas Click showed Wendi how to find sharks’ teeth. What began as a fun hobby has become an obsession, according to Wendi.

“It used to be about laying out in the sun. Now the whole thing is about going to the beach to hunt sharks’ teeth,” she laughed.

This summer, Wendi and her husband Jackie found 1,125 sharks’ teeth. What do they do with the thousands of sharks’ teeth? “Right now, I just put them in a jar on my fireplace,” she said. In the future, she hopes to own a beach house where she can decorate with the teeth. “I would love to put the biggest ones in plexiglass on end tables, and my husband wants to get a case for the bigger ones that we’ve found to display them,” she said. When asked if she intends to sell any of the teeth, she said, “No, I like them too much!” So, for now, the jar on their fireplace hearth continues to fill up with each beach trip.

Is there some kind of trick to finding so many sharks’ teeth? Not according to Wendi. “People always ask me what’s my secret. But there is none; I don’t have any tricks,” she said. However, Wendi was happy to share her tips for successful teeth hunting.

“Timing is everything. Early mornings are really good because there’s not a lot of people out yet. Yet, I find them all times of the day,” she said. Wendi said that while most people think they need to go tooth or shell hunting during low tide, she has more success when the water is at its highest point. “If you have a little colander, you can sift around in the water as they come in and out. I find two to three hundred like that,” she said.

Wendi explained that knowing what to look for is an important part of tooth hunting.

“Look for shiny black objects and anything that is triangular,” she said. While most people would expect to find white teeth, most of the teeth found are black. “One reason people don’t find them is that they don’t know what to look for. They’re thinking about white ones that come directly out of the shark’s mouth, but they’re not usually like that,” she said. “Most teeth are black and fossilized from where they’ve been in the water for a while,” she added.

Why are there so many sharks’ teeth out there? Some sharks use over 30,000 teeth in their lifetime. Their teeth are not attached to gums on a root like our teeth, so they can easily lose a tooth when it becomes stuck in prey. So, when the shark bites, teeth are lost. Sharks typically lose at least one tooth per week. This doesn't affect the shark, however, as new ones replace it within a couple of days.

As far as hobbies go, shark tooth hunting is a fun and inexpensive one that a person can really sink their teeth into. Wendi’s only tools are a plastic baggie and a colander at the end of a stick.

“It’s a wonderful hobby!” she said. “It keeps me out of everybody’s hair, it keeps me busy a big part of the day, and it’s cheap,” she laughed. While all of the teeth she has found have been from North Myrtle Beach, Wendi hopes to make a trip to Venice Beach, Florida. “They say that Venice Beach is the ‘sharks’ tooth capitol.’ So, I would love to go there,” she said.

Her ultimate goal is to find a tooth of the giant megalodon shark, an extinct shark whose teeth can weigh more than a pound each. A single megalodon tooth is worth several thousand dollars.

Wendi has been a science and biology teacher at Volunteer High School in Church Hill for 27 years. When asked what she plans to do when she retires, she replied, “This is my home, but I am a beach person. I would love to eventually have a second home at the beach.” Wendi also works with her son, Marshall, an ETSU student with his own landscaping business. She has no plans to slow down much, even after retirement. “I love to work. But I will definitely hunt more (teeth) than I do now,” she said.

After all, the beach is calling, and there are many more sharks’ teeth out there just waiting to be found.

For fans of the Discovery Channel television show, Shark Week 2019 begins July 28.

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