Fishing boat captain Mike Anderson of the F/V Rimrack knew he had something special when he hauled up a load of scallops off the Isles of Shoals on Wednesday.
Among the blanched shells of the succulent shellfish was what looked like a 6-inch long tooth with serrated edges and a gaping hole where a root once was.
Anderson instantly recognized it as a wooly mammoth tooth. It is not the first time one has been hauled up along the Seacoast. More than 15 years ago Seabrook Harbor Master Mike Pike also pulled one up, but it is certainly uncommon.
Anderson was fishing about 8 miles off the coast of the Isles of Shoals in about 120 feet of water when he made the discovery.
"He knew that it was something that was different and not a rock or manmade or anything like that," his wife, Padi Anderson said. "He saw the nerve hole in the tooth and pretty much knew what it was."
The Andersons got in touch with Will Clyde, an associate professor of geology with the University of New Hampshire who focuses on earth history, to confirm the discovery.
Clyde is currently on sabbatical in Argentina, but said the images and video he has seen of the tooth confirm Mike Anderson's suspicion.
Padi Anderson said Clyde believes the tooth might be from a baby mammoth based on its small size.
He will investigate further when he returns from sabbatical.
For now, the Andersons are protecting the tooth while also making it available for interested viewers who stop by the docks to pick up day boat scallops.
More than a dozen people bundled up to hit the docks on Thursday night.
The fact that the tooth is such an ancient piece of history is what makes it so interesting, Padi Anderson said.
"To know this is something that was living over 10,000, 12,000 years ago and that it was right here in New Hampshire most probably, and that where we found it was on land at that time," Padi Anderson said. "It is pretty interesting to learn about what the world would have looked like back then and you learn from that, like this tooth. This animal was on land and we're fishing there now and probably in 100 years, where we are now is going to be covered in water."
It is not the first time Mike Anderson has hauled up long-buried treasures. One year he thought he had discovered an actual treasure chest, only to discover it was a very old, and very corroded fuel tank.
He said the crew always likes making interesting discoveries, as long as they are happy firstname.lastname@example.org