Thai fisherman finds 'the world's biggest' blob of whale vomit

Thai fisherman finds ‘the world’s biggest’ blob of whale vomit – that could be worth £2.4MILLION – after it washed up on his local beach

  • Ambergris – or whale vomit – is found in sperm whale’s digestive systems
  • It is  used as an expensive ingredient in perfume – such as Chanel No5
  • It sells for up to £23,740 per kilogram 
  • Naris Suwannasang found a chunk weighing up to 100 kilograms  

A fisherman working for £500-a-month has stumbled across what is possibly the world’s biggest blob of Ambergris – worth £2.4 million.

Ambergris – or whale vomit – is considered a sea treasure and floating gold because of an odourless alcohol that is extracted to make a perfume’s scent last longer.

Naris Suwannasang, 60, saw several pale rock-like pale lumps washed up on a beach when he was walking by the sea in Nakhon Si Thammarat, southern Thailand.

He called his cousins to help him take the items home, where they started examining the unusual discovery. 

To their astonishment, the large rocks appeared to resemble ambergris, a rare secretion from whales which is used as an expensive ingredient in perfume production – such as Chanel No5 – to make its scent last for longer.

The family tested the surface by burning it with a lighter, causing it to melt instantly while giving off a musky smell, giving them further confirmation of their find.

Ambergris: From a whale’s intestines to the world’

Ambergris – also often referred to as Whale Vomit or grey amber – is a solid, waxy, flammable and highly valuable substance produced in the digestive system of sperm whales.

It is used by perfumers as a fixative –  something that equalises vapor pressures, and thus the volatilities, of the raw materials in a perfume oil, as well as to increase the tenacity of a scent.

For this reason, it has historically been highly sought after by perfumers, and played a part in the prosperity of the whaling industry from the 18th to the mid-19th century, which saw some 50,000 sperm whales killed each yet.

As a result, sperm whales – also hunted for their oil and bones – became an endangered species, leading to the International Whaling Commission imposing a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982. 

Many countries also ban the trade of ambergris as a way to discourage the illegal hunting and exploitation of whales – including Australia and the United States, although its trade is legal in the UK, France and Switzerland.  

Fossilised evidence of the rare substance dates back 1.75 million years, and it is believed that humans have been using it for over 1,000 years.

 

 

Mr Suwannasang said that the possible Ambergris weighed 220 lbs (100kg), potentially making it one of the largest deposit of the whale secretion that has ever been found.

The fisherman even claimed he had been contacted by a businessman offering im  960,000 Thai baht – or £23,740 per kilogram if the ambergris is proven to be of a high enough quality.

In total, that would land Naris a cool 96,000,000 Thai baht – around £2.4 million. 

Even a fraction of the sum would obliterate his meagre earnings from fishing of around £500 a month.

‘The businessman told me that he will come to check the quality of the ambergris later and the price shocked me,’ he said.

‘I could receive around 960,000THB per kilogram if the ambergris I found is the best grade.’

Naris is now waiting for specialists to confirm that the material found is ambergris.

He said: ‘I want to know more about this ambergris and want the specialist to inspect them.’

Even a fraction of the sum would obliterate his meagre earnings from fishing of around £500 a month.

‘The businessman told me that he will come to check the quality of the ambergris later and the price shocked me,’ he said.

‘I could receive around 960,000THB per kilogram if the ambergris I found is the best grade.’

Naris is now waiting for specialists to confirm that the material found is ambergris.

He said: ‘I want to know more about this ambergris and want the specialist to inspect them.’

He added that he intends to go to the police to make a record of his discovery so there is some record of it being in his possession, in case someone tries to steal the potentially incredibly valuable substance.

‘I also plan to go to the police and have them record my discovery as I feared that they might be stolen from my house,’ he said. 

An odourless alcohol called ambrein is extracted from ambergris and used by perfume makers to make a perfume’s scent last longer – particularly by the producers of more expensive perfumes.

Ambergris comes from sperm whales, which eat large volumes of cephalopods – marine animals such as squid, octopus and cuttlefish.

Scientists have theorised that the substances is produced to ease the passing of the tougher elements to these sea creatures, such as shells ans beaks through a whale’s digestive system.

Some believe that whales then vomit up the substance, earning its nickname, but Richard Sabin, a curator of marine animals at the Natural Museum, believes otherwise.

He said: ‘ambergris forms in the intestines and passes along with faecal matter, forming an obstruction in the rectum’, according to The Sun.

Freshly produced ambergris is said to have a marine, fecal-like odour – likened to the smell of farm manure mixed with that of the ocean.

As it ages, however, it aquires a sweet, earth smell – likened to the fragrance of running alcohol without the chemical scent. 

In April 2016, a 1.57 kilogram ambergris ball found in Lancashire sold for £50,000 while in November of the same year, three Omani fishermen found 80 kilograms of ambergris and sold it for £2.3million.

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