Man finds (valuable) whale vomit on English beach

Sperm whale off the coast of New Zealand (EyesWideOpen/Getty Images)
Sperm whale off the coast of New Zealand (EyesWideOpen/Getty Images)

Just because something's gross doesn't mean it isn't valuable. Case in point: Whale vomit. A man taking his dog for a walk on the beach came across a pile of (maybe! hopefully!) whale regurgitation. Now he could stand to make more than $50,000 from the find.

Who would pay tens of thousands of dollars for whale vomit? The perfume industry, of course. The substance, while foul smelling when it first hits land, becomes much more pleasant as it dries in the sun—and can be used to help prolong the scent of perfume.

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According to the BBC, Ken Wilman's dog began sniffing the substance (known as ambergris) while walking on Morecambe beach in England. Wilman went to investigate, picked up the stone-like object, gave it a whiff and then dropped it like a bad habit. Wilman told the BBC: "When I picked it up and smelled it, I put it back down again and I thought 'urgh.'"

Wilman left the beach, but something about his stinky discovery stayed in his mind. He did a little research at home and figured out that it was likely ambergris. He then went back to the beach and retrieved the seven-pound object. A French dealer has already offered more than $50,000.

While these sorts of finds are rare, they do occur. Last year, an 8-year-old boy found a one-pound piece of ambergris that was expected to bring in up to $63,000. And in 2006, a man in South Australia found a whopping 32.5-pound piece of ambergris. Estimated value: $300,000.

If only cat hairballs had the same market value.

*Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the matter as "excrement." This has been corrected to "vomit."