Fisherman Narong Phetcharaj could not believe his luck after finding a lump of whale vomit on Niyom Beach in Surat Thani province, Thailand. Fisherman Narong Phetcharaj could not believe his luck after finding a lump of whale vomit on Niyom Beach in Surat Thani province, Thailand. Experts at the Prince of Songkla University have confirmed that the 66-pound ambergris could be worth $1.2 million.
Ambergris is one of the strangest natural occurrences produced by sperm whales and has been used for centuries. However, its origin remains a mystery for many years.
Valuable Ambergris Found by Fishermen
According to The National News, Phetcharaj used to warm $272 a month from fishing, but his life has been changed forever after spotting the ambergris off the coast of southern Thailand.
He realized that the mass he found has a similar waxy texture and appearance as whale vomit, so he decided to drag it away from the beach, wrapping it in a towel for safety before putting it in a cardboard box. He then informed his relatives of his discovery and examined it himself at home before being tested by experts from the university.
Pieces of the whale vomit quickly melted when they burned it, which confirmed that it was genuine ambergris. Upon confirmation, Phetcharaj said that he had already received a certificate of authenticity to prove that it was real. He is planning to sell the whale vomit.
Meanwhile, BBC News reported that some 35 fishermen in Yemen also found ambergris in the carcass of a sperm whale floating in the Gulf of Aden. The fishermen found lumps of the rare vomit weighing almost 280lbs and cost an estimated $1.5 million.
They divided the earnings from the ambergris between them and those who helped discover the whale vomit. They also gave some money to the homes for the needy in their village.
Ambergris: The Floating Gold of the Sea
According to the Natural History Museum, fossilized evidence of ambergris can be traced back to 1.75 million years, and humans may likely have been using it for 1,000 years. Ambergris has been referred to as a treasure of the sea and a floating gold. However, its origins have remained a mystery for many years, not until the large-scale whaling in the 1800s that identified the sperm whale as its sole producer.
Sperm whales eat large quantities of cephalopods and most of its indigestible elements are vomited out before digestion. However, in rare circumstances, these move into their intestines and bind together and slowly become a solid mass of ambergris, growing inside them for many years.
Deposits of ambergris can be found floating on any ocean or washed up on shores, given that sperm whales lie all over the world. However, they are uncommon as only less than 5% of whale carcasses have them.
The clearest identifying trait of ambergris is their odor, possessing a strong fecal smell. However, it becomes more pleasant as it dries, which is described to be musky. Its odor was even mentioned in the novel Moby Dick and was described as a faint stream of perfume from the terrible odor of a dead whale.
Ambergris contains the odorless alcohol ambrein that is used to make a perfume's scent last longer. Perfumers have categorized the quality of ambergris according to its color as those with the finest perfumes are made from pure white varieties, while black ambergris is the least valuable because it contains little ambrein.
But ambergris is more than an ingredient to perfume. In early Arab civilizations, people would use it as incense, an aphrodisiac, and medicine to treat various ailments in the heart, brain, and senses.
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