A dog walker and his dog have stumbled upon a six lb lump of smelly whale poop in Morecambe, Lancashire, that could be worth £100,000 or approximately $158,000, according to the Mirror.
The Mirror reports that Ken Wilman didn’t know the value of the stinky yellow rock until a little bit of online research revealed that the substance was ambergris, an ingredient used in the manufacture of perfume. A French dealer reportedly offered Wilman £43,000 for the sperm whale feces but experts contend that the ambergris could be worth a lot more.
While many people refer to the smelly substance as vomit, it’s actually poop.
“Headlines like ‘Moby Sick Makes Boy Rich’ reveal the popular misconception of ambergris as whale vomit. It’s poop,” Christopher Kemp, a molecular biologist, told ABC News back in August 2012.
Wilman, who is unemployed due to a recent accident, told the Mirror that the substance “smelled horrible.”
“I left it, came back home and looked it up on the internet,” he added.
However, as soon as he realized how valuable the poop was he went back to the beach to haul it home.
“It is like walking on the beach and finding a bag of £50,000 in cash,” Wilman said.
Once Wilman has an expert determine its authenticity, finding a buyer shouldn’t be a problem.
“It’s quite a find,” Chris Hill, curator at the Aquarium of the Lakes in Newby Bridge, Cumbria, told the Mirror. “How much it’s worth will depend on how fresh it is, but it’s potentially $180,000. There are places in Europe that will buy it from you. They will age it, like a fine wine, and then test it for perfume.”
In 2012, eight-year-old Charlie Naysmith of the UK found a large chunk of whale feces while taking a walk on the beach with his dad. The boy’s father also turned to the Internet to identify the substance and discovered that given its weight of more than a pound, it was worth up to $63,000.
According to National Geographic, ambergris is valuable because high-end perfumes from companies like Chanel and Lanvin use the substance’s ability to “fix scent to human skin.” The National Geographic Society says that if the person responsible for picking the scents likes the smell of the ambergris, the substance can be worth thousands of dollars an ounce.
While it is illegal to use ambergris in perfumes in the U.S. because of the sperm whale’s endangered species status, the appeal of the substance to foreign markets, like the French, is high.
Scientists note that sperm whales protect themselves from squid beaks by secreting a fatty substance in their intestines to surround the beaks. These lumps of ambergris are eventually excreted.
Photo credit: Cianc.