Brit strikes gold after finding whale vomit on beach

  • IANS, London
  • Updated: Sep 27, 2015 15:34 IST
Whale vomit, known as ambergis, is a prized ingredient in the perfume industry, and can fetch a sizeable sum at auction. (AFP Photo)

Beachcombers dream of finding treasures as they stroll along sandy beaches, but one dog walker in Wales struck gold as he exercised his pet - and was on Friday $16,700 richer after finding a 1.1 kg chunk of whale vomit.

His rare find, known as ambergris, sparked a frenzy of interest when it came up for sale Friday at an auction house in northern England, reported Chinese news agency Xinhua.

Whale vomit is used in the perfume industry, making it very valuable and a prized treasure. It is used to enhance the scent or prolong the duration with which a fragrance lasts.

The auction house placed an estimate of between $7,600 and $10,600 on the lump of yellow and black ambergris, which was just 20 centimetres in length.

About 50 people were in the auction house in Macclesfield when the item came up, and as the estimate was exceeded it came down to two bidders eager to get their hands on the sale item.

Neither of the bidders were in the room, one was a telephone bidder the other was following the sale on the internet. The auctioneers would not disclose details of the telephone bidder, a private collector, who won the race.

The finder of the object also decided to keep his identity private, not even prepared to disclose the location of the beach where he made his remarkable find.

The auction house had the item checked and estimated that it had been in the sea for about 50 years.

All that is known is the ambergris was found on a beach on the island of Anglesey in North Wales.

Ambergris is formed in the digestive system of a sperm whale and is passed either as vomit or as part of the faeces. Scientists believe it is used to coat irritating objects in the whale’s intestines.

Auctioneer Adam Partridge said he was “elated” at the sale, adding: “Somebody brought this smelly waxy rugby ball-shaped lump to us and asked us to sell it for them.

“There are many things which can be mistaken for ambergris - fat, rubber and palm oil among others - but after doing some research and consulting the authorities on such things, we found out that what we had was indeed very valuable. We’ve had lots of unusual items pass through the doors over the years, but this is by far the weirdest.”

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