Elliot Weston sells shark teeth recovered in ocean. Here’s the Q and A from our reporter:
You wear lots of hats, but are known for your shark tooth diving. Tell us what all you do.
“So I run a mixed model business offshore. We commercial fish, dive for shark teeth and even do charter fishing trips and chartered shark teeth dives as well.”
He said his company for shark teeth is Weston Collections, but he also operates Last Minute Charters and Seafood Management Group. For now the seafood company is selling to wholesalers in the region.
Explain what a day on the job is like.
“So typically in the summer we are up at 3:30 to 4 before first light and from there we leave out of Carolina Beach Inlet and it takes about two to three hours to get offshore to some of our sites. I’ll go for the first dive, collect some teeth and do some spearfishing as well.”
Once Weston comes up from the dive, the boat will head to some nearby ledges to fish for sea bass for the rest of the day, then dock and sell the harvest.
Other days are a balancing acts, he said. He spends time managing the three ventures and updating the online shop for shark teeth or shipping out shark teeth orders.
How did you get started?
“I’ve been a collector since I was a little boy … I always like to find stuff.”
His father was really into fishing so throughout his childhood Weston traveled all over from their home in Chicago. He later got a degree in fisheries biology with a minor in scientific diving leadership from Humboldt State University in California. It was there he started diving offshore, finding abalone and other treasures.
In 2009 Weston moved to the Wilmington area to work as a scientific diver with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Working underwater he would sometimes come across giant shark teeth.
“When I found out North Carolina had all these shark teeth and I was coming here as a diver, I thought it would be cool to find some after all the agates and petrified wood I had found off the west coast. These shark teeth were rocks I could actually sell.”
Today he is close to finishing his master’s degree in marine biology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Do people have a common response when you tell them what you do for a living?
“I usually get a mixed response. Some people get excited or scared and they’ll tell me they can’t believe I do that for a living, or think what I do is crazy.”
Others, he said, are envious and tell him they would love to dive and be out on the ocean for a living.
What sort of stuff do you find out in the ocean?
Weston has found hundreds of shark teeth, many as large as the palm of his hand. The megalodon teeth are anywhere from 4 to 20 million years old. He keeps his giant collection organized by type and size in wide wooden drawers he made himself. Treasures from Weston’s dives on the west coast decorate his office — abalone shells, petrified wood, and chalcedony. Chalcedony, which Weston sometimes calls “God’s artwork,” has what looks like swirls of resin inside and almost looks as if someone carved it.
More than 40 miles off the coast of Wilmington, he has found plenty of mammal fossils. Mammoth teeth, mastodon teeth, goat teeth and even horse teeth. The reason these mammal fossils could be located so far offshore may be that the shoreline extended much further thousands of years ago, Weston said.
What training is required?
“Dive and boat experience is the most important part of the job,” he said. “It gets real deep, visibility can turn and sometimes conditions can be really nice and then get nasty almost instantly.”
Share something not so pleasant about the job.
“The hardest part of the job is just the logistics — you have to know your tides and locations, know the buoys out in the water and know the ins and outs of the boat so if something breaks out in the ocean, you can fix it.
“You have to know how to plan ahead for a successful mission and be prepared for anything to happen. It’s constant problem solving.”
What is your favorite part about this job?
“Coming home,” Weston said, laughing.
Ultimately while diving is a thrill, passion and adventure, it is work, he said.
“I love sharing what we find with everyone and seeing people happy when they buy some of the stuff we come across. We also are able to do outreach with children, we have fossil dig kits to promote education in the natural sciences and kids can find shark teeth and identify the species. So really seeing them learn, being able to tell stories — those are all the things I love … and even though some days can be hard, I wouldn’t trade what I do and the adventure of it all.”