Shark Tooth on Main Street (or Why it's now the Lost Sea Expedition…)

So I drove my mule team from Oriental to Aurora and smack on the corner of Fourth and Main I found a shark tooth.

For real.

Ok, let me back up the plot a little. First let me explain how downtown Aurora is laid out.

Main Street runs down the middle of it. On one side of Main Street is the Aurora Fossil Musuem. On the other is what they call the fossil heap.

Debbie Richardson and Richard Olsen of the Aurora Fossil Museum – (Aurora, NC)

The fossil heap is just a pile of tailings the PCS phosphate mining company drops off from time to time across the street from the museum. After visitors tour the museum, they can dig through the heap for fossils of their own.

Which is exactly what I did after I toured the museum’s extensive collection of fossilized sharks’ teeth.

But before I ever reached the sandy looking pile, right by the sign post on the corner of Fourth and Main, a triangular jag on the sidewalk snagged my eye.

No, it couldn’t be!

Still, I stooped for it and came up with a perfectly preserved shark’s tooth. I collected a few more teeth from the fossil heap and then went back to the museum. They identified my first find as a Snaggletooth shark and it was millions of years old.

Snaggletooth Shark tooth

As I was leaving the museum, something else caught my eye, something even weirder than the shark tooth on Main Street. It was a map of the United States with a blue sea running up between the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains.

What was that all about? There’s no ocean out there. I’ve personally walked across it and water, if anything, was scarce.

But it seems I was wrong. During the Cretaceous Period, about a hundred million years ago, a warm sea covered most of what is now the Great Plains.

And then it hit me. The route I was following on my upcoming North to South journey ran right down the middle of the extinct ocean called the Western Interior Seaway.

North Dakata, South Dakota, Nebraska…flooded (and I thought it was going to be a dry run…)

Suddenly the name to my next trip fell perfectly into place.

It wasn’t “Captain Bernie’s DRY DOCK Expedition” at all. What I was about to set out on was really “Captain Bernie’s LOST SEA Expedition”.

Ok, so I showed up a few million years after the last tide went out. But so what! Here I was, in the perfect position to be the first sea captain to explore the long forgotten sea bed on a nigh extinct form of transportation, the mule powered “Ship of Mules”.

And then I learned about the fifteen foot turtle that swam in the tropical waters that once covered South Dakota. It was called the Archelon, boasted flippers six feet long and sported a tremendous overbite.

Mr. Archelon

But we’ll get into him later.

For now my head just spins at the thought of entering the Lost Sea by mule wagon.

And it’s all thanks to that shark tooth I found on Main Street.


(Thanks Debbie and Richard of the Aurora Fossil Museum for steering me in the right direction. For those of you who’d like to learn more about Aurora and the fantastic Fossil Museum, it’s Bernie)


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