A couple in the United Kingdom, out for a stroll on a beach, got a lot more to show for their walk than a bit of exercise. They found a chunk of whale vomit that could net them a nice chunk of cash.
According to Mirror Online, Gary and Angela Williams, from Lancashire, noticed a foul smell on Middleton Sands Beach, close to Morecambe Bay. They traced the odor to its source and came upon the unusual item.
The reason whale vomit is worth anything at all, let alone able to fetch a nice price, is that the fragrance industry prizes it for its ability to help scents like perfume hang around longer.
VIDEO: Why Is Whale Vomit So Valuable?
Mirror Online reports that the couple is currently negotiating with several interested parties over the lump, which weighs about 3.5 pounds (1.57 kilograms).
How much could they get for their odoriferous beach find? According to the site, a chunk of whale vomit about twice the size of the new find was valued at almost US$170,000 (about 120,000 pounds). The present chunk is thought to be worth in the neighborhood of US$70,000 (nearly 50,000 pounds).
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Also called ambergris, "whale vomit" is manufactured in the digestive system of sperm whales. It helps loosen up anything that might be lodged there, so it can be expelled.
The final, expurgated product "feels like a rock hard rubber ball. Its texture is like wax, like a candle," Mr. Williams told Mirror Online. "When you touch it you get wax sticking to your fingers."
While trade in ambergris is still legal in the United Kingdom, in many other countries its sale is banned under various whale-protection initiatives, including the U.S. Endangered Species Act. A synthetic product, ambroxan, is now used in its place.
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Fortunately for the couple, they knew a bit about the value of whale vomit and suspected that's what they might be looking at. Instead of leaving the stinky rock to its own devices, they wrapped it up and carried it away for further study and valuation.
"If it is worth a lot of money," said Mr. Williams, "it will go a long way towards buying us a static caravan. It would be a dream come true."