Nature is indeed mysterious. Three fishermen caught a disgusting whale vomit. But it is not bad news. It is worth millions of dollars.
Three fishermen from Oman have managed to snag a wonderfully gross catch: a giant hunk of ambergris (whale vomit) weighing 80 kilograms (176 pounds), which is valued at almost US$3 million.
Why such a high price tag? Well, ambergris is actually a highly sought-after ingredient in high-priced fragrances, because it makes scents last longer and, as you can probably guess, whale spit-up requires quite a bit of luck to find.
While it’s often called whale vomit, there’s quite a bit of debate over what the waxy substance should be classified as.
Scientists think the substance is secreted in whale stomachs to help them bind together objects and food items that they can’t digest.
After enough of the ambergris is produced, the whale either regurgitates the lump of junk, or poops it out. So, either way, it’s still pretty gross.
Once the whale has passed the ambergris, it floats on the surface of the ocean, which is why one of its many names is ‘floating gold’. And it just so happens that this is exactly how the fishing trio managed to find their ridiculously expensive lump.
Here’s what it looks like:
According to Hasan Shaban Al Lawati at Times of Oman, the disgusting treasure was found off the coast of Qurayat – a region in northeast Oman – by a group of three friends.
One of the men, Khalid Al Sinani, has spent his entire life fishing in the area, hoping to one day come across the winning ocean lottery ticket.
“We used a rope to collect it and carry it inside the boat,” Al Sinani told Times of Oman.
“I was told earlier that ambergris has an icky smell, but after a couple of days it imparts a pleasant scent. We rushed back to the beach with joy and happiness.”
Al Sinani is actually very lucky to have spotted the lump of vomit on the surface. Most of the time, ambergris is found on the beach after it’s washed up by the tide.
So far, a Saudi trader has already made an offer to buy the ambergris for 13,500 Omani rials per kilogram, putting the grand total to just over 1 million rials (about US$2.8 million), though Al Sinani will most likely wait for an auction to sell the treasure at a better price.
Al Sinani and his friends aren’t the only people to recently find a chunk of valuable ambergris – though theirs is definitely one of the largest.
Back in April, a couple from the UK managed to find a 1.57-kilogram (3.4-pound) chunk of ambergris that was valued at roughly US$70,000.
“It was down a section of the beach where no one really walks,” Gary Williams, one of the finders, told Sophie Evans at The Mirror. “It smells too bad, though. It’s a very distinctive smell, like a cross between squid and farmyard manure.”
So, the next time you’re on the beach, you might want to keep an eye out for a chunk of wax that smells funky and looks sort of like a fossil of some kind, because it could very well be your ticket to retirement.