Vomit for Cash

British beachcomber lands ambergris treasure after his dog fixates on stinky sperm whale vomit

This barf is money in the bank (courtesy of Nigel Slater/AFP/Getty Images)

I love when I have the opportunity to use a word like “vomit” in the title of a blog post.

While walking his dog along Morecambe beach in England recently, Ken Wilman came across what he thought was a soccer ball sized stone. He picked it up, sniffed it and immediately dropped it because, put simply, it stunk.

Is it possible he had just whiffed some petrified poo-poo? Not exactly.

He and his dog Madge went about their business, but once Wilman returned home, he decided to do a little research on the strange substance. A quick Google search revealed that it wasn’t fecal matter; it was ambergris, a digestive secretion produced by whales.

In other words, he had stumbled upon some whale vomit. Tasty.

Actually, the discovery turned out to be incredibly fortuitous since ambergris is most commonly used in perfumes, at least in countries other than the United States. Americans don’t use the stuff since collecting it once meant killing whales. It is still popular in some Asian and European countries, though.

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering how something so foul can wind up making people smell so good. I’m no expert, mind you. But from what I understand, ambergris loses its stinky odor when it ages and eventually smells like rubbing alcohol. Adding it to perfume makes the scent last longer and reduces evaporation, which in turn makes the perfume last longer.

And believe me. Anyone rich enough to afford perfume with ambergris is probably glad it’s there. It seems to appear in only the “finest” and most exclusive scents around the world, which should make the rest of this story rather predictable.

Once Wilman realized what that pungent stone really was, he immediately returned to the beach and retrieved it. Lucky for him it was still there because shortly thereafter, he received an offer to buy the “Moby Dank” for almost $70,000!

I checked Wikipedia, against my better judgment, and I quote: “Ambergris can be found in the Atlantic Ocean and on the coasts of Brazil, Madagascar, the East Indies, The Maldives, China, Japan, India, Australia, New Zealand, and the Molucca Islands.” Feel free to add England to the list.

If you’re reading this and come from any of the countries or regions just mentioned, I have a proposition for you: if you happen upon this stuff, decide to sell it and need someone to peddle it to the highest bidder for you, let me know.

My standard fee is 10%, but I may be willing to charge you “friend prices” instead.

Posted on February 2, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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