Science

Lucky couple find precious lump of smelly whale vomit

An adult southern right whale frolics in Australian waters off Sydney on July 17, 2014.

An adult southern right whale frolics in Australian waters off Sydney on July 17, 2014.  (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

Good fortune has never smelled so bad. The Mirror reports Gary and Angela Williams found a lump of "floating gold"—more accurately described as whale vomit—Sunday while walking on a British beach.

It wasn't too hard to find the ambergris, which is both rare and valuable; they just followed their noses. "It's a very distinctive smell, like a cross between squid and farmyard manure," Gary says.

Ambergris is used in perfume-making to extend the lifespan of scents, and Smithsonian notes the not-so-delectable sounding item was once eaten: Casanova was said to view it as an aphrodisiac and incorporate it into his chocolate mousse.

Gary and Angela had previously read about ambergris, so they knew the 3.5-pound lump shouldn't be ignored. It could get them more than $70,000, according to the Guardian (though Atlas Obscura says the going rate is more like $10,000 per pound), which the couple would use to purchase a mobile home.

They're currently talking with potential buyers in France and New Zealand. Ambergris, which feels like a hard ball of sticky wax after hardening on a beach, is made in the intestines of whales, possibly to protect them from sharp objects they're unable to digest, like squid beaks.

(A British man who found a soccer ball-sized piece of whale vomit in 2013 sold it for $68,000.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Lucky Couple Finds Precious Lump of Smelly Whale Vomit

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