Briton finds 'rare whale vomit' worth $68,000

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LONDON, (AFP) - A British man has been offered 50,000 euros for a strange-smelling rock his dog found on a beach, which is likely a rare form of whale vomit used in perfumes, the BBC reported Thursday.

Ken Wilman was walking his dog Madge in the coastal town of Morecambe in Northwest England when she began "poking at a rather large stone" with a waxy texture and yellowish color. At first he left it on the beach, but "something triggered in my mind", Wilman said, prompting him to go back and retrieve the object, which he believes is a piece of ambergris, a substance found in the digestive systems of sperm whales.

Whales sometimes spew up ambergris, which floats on water and has been highly prized for centuries. It is used in perfume-making for the musky fragrance it acquires as it ages -- but newer ambergris is foul-smelling.

"When I picked it up and smelled it I put it back down again and I thought 'urgh'," Wilman told the BBC. "It has a musky smell, but the more you smell it the nicer the smell becomes."

He is waiting for tests to confirm his find is ambergris, nicknamed "floating gold", but says he has been offered 50,000 euros (£43,000, $68,000) for it by a French dealer.

"It's worth so much because of its particular properties," Andrew Kitchener, principal curator of vertebrates at the National Museum of Scotland, told the broadcaster. "It's a very important base for perfumes and it's hard to find any artificial substitute for it."

The substance gets a mention in the classic 1851 whaling novel Moby Dick, where author Herman Melville writes: "Who would think, then, that such fine ladies and gentlemen should regale themselves with an essence found in the inglorious bowels of a sick whale! Yet so it is."

Unfortunately, digging dogs don't always find prizes worth thousands of dollars. Most of the time they just make a mess. Canines dig for a variety of reasons such as boredom, high energy levels and hunting instincts. As an owner, to curb digging you can either redirect your dog's energies to something else or remove the elements that encourage it to dig. Some dogs will continue to dig anyways, and may require training, fences or a digging pit. Go to our partner petMD to learn more.

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Ambergris, a less colorful term than sperm whale vomit, is not the only surprising, and surprisingly valued, ingredient in expensive perfumes. Pregnant mare urine is also highly prized for components that apparently people find nice-smelling. I'd love to learn how someone figured out to use these ingredients in perfumes.

February 02 2013 at 6:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I produced some ambergris last weekend. I believe it was the result of mixing Patron and Baileys then eating at Denny's afterwards...

February 02 2013 at 4:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I picked up a French girl who was hitchhiking. She was coming from Provincetown.
Man, was she ripe.

February 01 2013 at 10:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Whale Vomit? Hummm..That Must Be The Main Ingredient Of Douche!

February 01 2013 at 5:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

take it to the guys on "Pawn Stars", bet they've never seen that before!

February 01 2013 at 2:12 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to toddpugz's comment

Rick: "I know they said it was worth 86k, but you gotta think, it's going to sit in there, and I gotta pay for staff, auctions, massages, waxings, so...the most I'll go is, 3.50".

February 01 2013 at 5:02 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

whale vomit perfume? That explains the smell coming from some women I know

February 01 2013 at 12:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't think all woman smell bad, it only depends on where you stick your nose..........

February 01 2013 at 11:13 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I discovered why the rumor about French people never bathing originated. I married a French commando paratrooper who was in the French foreign legion. He is now a Maitre D in Palm beach. He works long late hours 6 days a week. I do his laundry. He barely sweats, has very little body hair and NEVER smells. I think the French evolved and interbred with the least smelly people over centuries. We have a daughter. Same thing. No sweat, no smell, little hair. My first husband was American, lots of hair, sweat and smell.He changed clothes 3 times a day, and left me tons of laundry. Our 2 daughters, same thing and they take 2 showers a day. The French, blue bloods that they are have bred out the less desirable traits people suffer from. He fought in Africa, both his grandfather's died fighting in WWII and he can drink a bottle of wine a day and never gain a pound. Our daughter is lucky. She'll never have a weight problem or a sweaty stink problem. Viva la France.

February 01 2013 at 10:27 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to atalise's comment

Um---the French killed off the majority of their blue bloods during the Terror. You likely have a nice smelling peasant.

February 02 2013 at 10:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


February 01 2013 at 10:26 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

It was worth a lot back in the day and has more expensive due to the fact that the sperm whale population is getting smaller,action it and get more! ;)

February 01 2013 at 10:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
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