Time to start taking more walks along the beach!
Imagine walking along the beach and spotting what looks like a giant waxy, and unpleasantly pungent rock. Would you pass this rock by, or pick it up and take it home to investigate what the heck it is? The correct answer would be to take it home. Why? Oh, just because it could be worth thousands of dollars!
In fact, a couple in the UK have just entered negotiations with potential buyers after finding a piece of the most valuable natural resource in the world — ambergris, also known as whale vomit.
Ambergris, or grey amber, is a key ingredient in high-end fragrances because it makes scents last longer. Because it’s impossible to predict where whale puke is going to end up, it is very rare, and you can actually earn a lot of money for finding some. The football-sized clump found by this couple is estimated to be worth $70,000.
So how do you go about finding ambergris? According to Gary and Angela Williams from Lancashire in northwest England, the pair who discovered the blob, you have to follow your nose. “It was down a section of the beach where no one really walks,” Gary Williams told The Mirror. “It smells too bad, though. It’s a very distinctive smell, like a cross between squid and farmyard manure.”
But no one really knows exactly where ambergris originates. According to Johnna Rizzo at National Geographic, it is thought to be secreted in the bile duct and intestines of sperm whales to eliminate stomach or throat irritants.
The waxy substance likely greases up anything stuck inside a whale’s digestive system, which allows it to be vomited back out. Now exactly where it gets vomited out is anyone’s guess, but researchers are increasingly looking into the possibility that it comes out the back end, not the front.
“It was once thought the ambergris was ejected by mouth. As of now, the argument seems to be weighted toward the back end of the whale,” said Rizzo.
It is illegal to use ambergris to produce perfumes in the US, due to the endangered status of sperm whales, but it is still a big part of the industry in France. Lanvin and Chanel use the substance to make their fragrances last longer on the skin, explained Rizzo.
The UK couple apparently knew what ambergris is and figured it would be worth something so they wrapped it in a scarf and carried it home. Boy, were they right!
“If it is worth a lot of money, it will go a long way towards buying us a static caravan,” Gary Williams told The Mirror. “It would be a dream come true.”
See, dreams do come true! Sometimes they just happen to be hidden beneath a waxy layer of whale vomit.
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