50-year-old Ken Wilman was out walking his dog down a beach in Morecambe one day when he noticed his pup was chewing on something. Ken walked over to investigate and saw what looked like a large yellow rock. Unsure of why his dog would be chewing on such a thing Ken picked it up and inspected the object.
It seemed like a rock but felt waxy to the touch. When he went to smell the rock, it had an incredibly overpowering odor. Rather than discard the smelly lump, Ken decided to take it home and do some research. After searching on the internet for a while, Ken discovered what he had was a large glob of whale vomit…
Ambergris is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull grey or blackish colour produced in the digestive system of sperm whales. Freshly produced ambergris has a marine, faecal odour. However, as it ages, it acquires a sweet, earthy scent commonly likened to the fragrance of rubbing alcohol without the vaporous chemical astringency. Although ambergris was formerly highly valued by perfumers as a fixative (allowing the scent to last much longer), It has now largely been replaced by synthetic ambroxan. – Wikipedia
While it’s commonly known as ‘floating gold” or “whale vomit” it’s actually not a vomit at all, but more of a poop. Not that it makes things any better…
“It’s more like poop, and it comes from the same place as poop, but it’s only made by a small percentage of sperm whales, as a result of indigestion.” – Christopher Kemp, author of “Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris
Another couple found what they think to be ambergris just this year as well. While waking along the beach in the UK they smelled something very pungent and followed it’s trail. They stumbled upon a large waxy rock that they seemed to think is ambergris. Although Christoper Kemp said that he doesn’t believe it’s true ambergris as it’s “a little too waxy” and looks more similar to animal fat.
“Many people think they’ve found it, and then discover they haven’t” – Christopher Kemp
If you happen to stumble onto a gray/black/yellow smelly waxy “rock” on the beach, don’t throw it out! It could be worth upwards of £50,000!!