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Rare Whale Vomit Considered As Floating Gold, Costs $70,000; Will It Endanger Sperm Whales?

Apr 18, 2016 04:04 AM EDT
Sperm Whales Beached In Skegness
The sperm whales are considered endangered species
(Photo : Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Have you ever heard of floating gold? We'll, apparently, in the beaches in Europe, they do exist but not in a shiny, glittery form. Instead, they look like a rock that smells. It's a stone secreted by sperm whales and are used in making perfumes. It is called "whale vomit" and it is extremely rare. It is considered valuable because a block of it can cost up to $70,000. However, authorities fear that if people decided to harvest whale's vomit, it might further worsen the population drop of the endangered sperm whales.

A couple from the UK recently chanced upon a smelly rock while walking on the beach. In a report by CNN, Gary and Angela Williams were walking on Middleton Sands beach when their attention was caught by a pungent smell. They knew it was whale vomit or ambergris.

Although it is called whale vomit, it is actually whale poop. According to an ambergris organization based in New Zealand, ambergris can be found floating on the ocean or on the shores. It came from the intestines of whales; these are partly indigestible beaks of squid. The indigestible squid part causes irritation on the sperm whale's intestines, which result to the build-up of this extremely rare smelly rock to form inside the whale's body.

Christopher Kemp, author of "Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris," said in an interview with CNN that "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." Kemp describe the rock to be a little waxy and having very complex smell.

But why does this smelly rock cost a fortune? Ambergris is rarely found, that is why it is very expensive and is a very important ingredients in making the smell of perfume lasts longer. Part of the reason perfumes cost as much as they do is because of this ingredient.

To add to that, the floating gold tends to get lost in the ocean for decades before finding its way to the shore, it is excreted in depths far accessible to humans.

Upon looking at the photos of the whale vomit, Kemp said it would cost around $70,000 if found genuine. But he had reservations with the couple's whale vomit find. He said it appears to be too waxy. Nevertheless, the couple is currently in negotiations with ambergris buyers in New Zealand.

In history, there are very few people who were able to chance upon a lump of floating gold, and because they did it with a generous dash of luck, it is almost similar to winning the lottery. In 2013 unemployed Ken Williams found a piece of whale's vomit which instantly gave him $180,000.

In the same report by CNN, they said harvesting ambergris is not directly harmful to whales. But despite that, the trade of ambergris is banned in the U.S. because of the threat it poses to the endangered sperm whales. That's why researchers don't encourage the scour or the harvest "whale's vomit."

Although this extremely rare known as "whale vomit" definitely worth a ton of money, experts say it is nearly impossible to find one, unless of course, luck is on your side. Kemp said it is also very difficult to identify.

The government fears that if unscrupulous business men found a faster way to harvest this floating gold, they will disrupt the natural flow of the sperm whale's ecosystem.

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