Diving the Meg Ledge

CCR Diver Mike Young gives the OK sign on the dive platform as the Captain of the Ledge Tender positions him beside the divers down line.


Text, photography and video by
Curt Bowen / Publisher Advanced Diver Magazine

Edit by Jennifer Bowen


Settling into base camp at the Willmington North Carolina KOA campground, my wife Jennifer and I wait for my longtime friend Mike Young and his wife, Sheri, as well as the rest of Mike’s team as we would prepare to embark on a thrilling three-day adventure along the coast of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, in our quest to uncover ancient Megalodon teeth buried beneath the chilling Atlanta Ocean floor.

Just as the sun was setting, Mike and Sheri arrive from their long drive from Arkansas. They quickly set up camp in their nifty RV style van. Driving closely behind, CJ and Fernando Gutierrez transport the equipment truck, and its contents of rebreathers, tanks, and scooters that will aid us in our search for giant Megalodon teeth. Mike informs the team that the boat captain just called and is eager to avoid potential bad weather tomorrow in the early afternoon, so the boat will depart from the dock at 6am.

What is a Megalodon?

In the present day, the Great White species of shark holds the title of the largest ocean predator, an awe-inspiring creature that demands reverence, exerting its authority over the vast expanse of oceans and seas. A Great White can reach lengths of over 20ft and a weight exceeding 2,400 pounds. Incredibly, a different species of shark reigned supreme in the world’s oceans a mere 3.5 million years ago. The Megalodon (Meg), was a colossal creature whose size far exceeded that of today’s Great White sharks. By examining the size of the largest Meg teeth recovered, scientists can estimate that this tremendous shark could have exceeded 50ft in length and weighed more than 50 tons. (see size chart below)

The name “Megalodon” meaning “large tooth,” was given to this creature because of its five rows of jaw-line filled with a staggering 276 terrifyingly large teeth, which are known to reach up to 7 inches in length. Although no jaw bone has ever been discovered, the Megalodon jaw is estimated to measure an approximate 9ft x 11ft. Evidence suggests that a Meg’s bite force would be close to 40,000 pounds per square inch. Often compare to the Tyrannosaurus Rex (T-Rex), which had an estimated bite force of over 12,000 pounds per square inch. Studies that have reconstructed the shark’s bite force suggest that it may have been one of the most powerful predators to have ever existed. Sharks will naturally lose teeth while feeding and regenerate them daily. A Meg has 276 teeth and could lose over 30,000 to 40,000 teeth in its lifetime.

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Video by Curt Bowen - Advanced Diver Magazine

Twin 450 HP diesel engines makes the 36ft Seatek Ledge Tender stand for attention as it transports eager tooth hunting divers 40 miles offshore.


The Meg Adventure Begins

Pulling into the marina, CCR divers Jon Lillestolen and Chris Williams are already there shuttling equipment down to the dock as we wait for the boat to arrive. 5:59am, right on time, the dive boat swings onto the dock. Two spry young men quickly cleat the boat and introduce themselves as Captain Chris Slog and Captain Brett Garner. I always say, “There’s nothing better than a boat with two captains!” Captain Slog informs us that the winds are expected to pick up in the afternoon, so we need to get offshore as quickly as possible, hoping to get our 3 dives in before the winds start. With twin 450hp Cummins diesel engines, the 36-foot, 13.5 beam Seatek planes out at 18 to 22 knots, ensuring a comfortable, quick two-hour, 40-mile run offshore into 100+ feet of water.

The dive plan is three, 1 hour dives per day, each with a depth around 100 feet. Rebreathers are used to maximize our bottom times while reducing required decompression along with conserving a ton of breathing gas for the 3 days, 9 total dives. Mike had brought a crate of mini Waydoo Subnado scooters along with him to help us uncover more teeth. The mini scooters aren’t used to pull the divers to cover more ground, but instead used to turn them around backwards, allowing the prop wash to blow sand and rocks away from the hard pack layer of ocean bottom to unearth 6 to 10 inches of sand and rock below the surface. Larger heavy Megalodon teeth typically settle downwards through the sand from years of storms and changing currents but rarely penetrate through the dense clay layer below. The plan is to remove the sand and rubble down to the clay layer using the mini scooters where the heavy teeth become trapped.

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Above: KISS CCR diver Fernando Gutierrez gears up on the side of the boat ready for another plunge to seafloor, 100 feet below.

Below: Captain Chris Slog drops into the chop carrying his large dive scooter used to clear sand away from the bottom in search of Meg teeth.


On these dives, the Captain doesn’t anchor the boat on location but deploys an independent medium-sized red float-ball on the surface, attached to a large diameter descent line with 15ft of heavy chain and a grapple hook. This makes hitting the desired bottom target area easier for divers and enables the boat to stay mobile to recover any diver that emerges away from the float ball.

Sitting on the side of the boat, I signal to the Captain; “I’m ready to roll in”. The Captain quickly maneuvers the boat slightly up-current of the red float-ball and hollers, “Dive, Dive, Dive!”. Rolling off the boat, I quickly locate the descent-line and pull my way down the line to the bottom. Once I reach the grappling hook, I see the other diver lines already tied into the chain and running out of my view across the sand. Unclipping my reel, I thread my line through one of the chain-links and back over my reel, securing my return line into the grapple hook. The Captain frowns upon divers who get lost on the bottom and do not return up the buoy.

As I swim away from the grapple hook, I spin out my line. I search the sandy ocean bottom for what could be a good spot for discovery. Did I have any special insight into where or what makes a spot better then another? No. I picked my first location because I saw a fat little fish poking his nose into the sand. So, in my mind, the fish was telling me this is the spot where the teeth are buried. Tightening the lock bolt on my reel, I dropped it onto the sand beside me, I flip the Waydoo scooter around, wedging it against my chest and the ocean floor. I lay on the trigger. Instantly, I am engulfed in a swirling cloud of silt and sand by the prop-wash, reducing my visibility to less then 6 inches. Lowering my face closely into the working area I’ve now created, I intently scan the area for anything shaped like a triangle.

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Above: Diver Fernando Gutierrez back roles off the boat breathing from his KISS Sidewinder rebreather.

Below: Mike Young makes Meg tooth diving look easy as he sports the new DiveTalk GO chest mounted rebreather.


After a few minutes, I finally reach the hard clay layer, but still no sign of teeth. Holding the scooter closer to the bottom, I think to myself; “I need more power Scottie!” Sand and silt explode from the hole as I become increasingly aggressive in rubble removal. Ten minutes and nothing, not one tooth! Turning off my scooter, I find myself minimized to 2 inches of visibility with little current to carry the silt away. As I wait, I think to myself, “now, where did I set my reel down?” I know it’s somewhere close by, but in the excitement of digging, I turned myself around in several directions. I can hear it now, the Captain saying; “World renown diver Curt Bowen loses his way across the sand! Who let this idiot on my boat, MIKE?” But having some experience quickly pays off as I conduct some simple search patterns and swiftly locate my line.

Reeling in my line towards the grapple hook, I find Mike’s gold line from his reel crossing my line. I say to myself; “Let’s follow it and see how the experts find teeth”. Maybe Mike’s technique is better than my first attempt at what I would call an explosive-strip-mining-method. Following Mike’s line, I see a light cloud of silt and a silhouette of a diver raised above the bottom. Upon closer analysis, it becomes apparent that Mike is methodically using his scooter to slowly remove layers of sand away from the large hole he’s working. After a couple of passes with his scooter, he turns it off, and removes larger rocks with his hands.

Bingo! He finds a medium-sized tooth, shows it to me with a smile, and quickly secures it in his mesh bag that’s clipped to his side. Blowing the bottom with a few more passes from his scooter, he repeats removing larger rocks. Another tooth springs up from the bottom, flips into Mike’s hand, and he promptly slips it into his bag.

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Above: The afternoon sun gleams down over Captain Cris Slog as he prepares for another "hot drop" into the Atlantic.

Below: KISS Sidewinder diver Jon Lillestolen searches for Meg teeth as he carefully removes sand from the seafloor with his Waydoo Subnado scooter.


With this newfound searching knowledge, I move up current from Mike’s location and start methodically moving sand just as Mike had done. Laughing to myself as I know I’m sending my cloud of silt over towards Mike. What are friends for!

Mike’s method quickly pays off as I secure my first 5 inch tooth into my bag. Looking at my Shearwater dive computer, I see that I have already used 40 minutes of my maximum bottom time of 60 minutes and I have 12 minutes of decompression. A couple more passes with the scooter, and I recover one more smaller tooth and it’s time to go. Returning to the grappling hook and ascent line, I complete my 12 minutes of decompression than surface to be picked up by the boat.

All the other divers have returned to the boat with a nice collection of impressive shark teeth compared to the meager two teeth in my bag. Mike mumbled something about reduced visibility towards the end of his dive, but I keep my mouth shut!

Over the next 2 days and 9 dives, it is rinse and repeat. In the end, every diver on the charter recovered an impressive collection of Meg teeth ranging from 1 inch to over 6 inches. I myself managed to uncover a couple dozen keepers for my first Meg ledge charter adventure. The only problem I see now is I want more! I’ll be better prepared next time. I might even beat Mike into the water!


Above: Meg tooth hunter Fernando Gutierrez reels in his line as he returns towards the divers up-line.

Below: Mike Young hangs on the decompression line as he shows off his impressive bag of large Meg shark teeth.

Captain Chris Slog  
Captain Brett Garner  
Mike Young - KISS Rebreathers  
Jon Lillestolen  
CJ Jay  

Fernando Calderón Gutiérrez


Curt Bowen

Publisher Advanced Diver Magazine