It’s what’s inside that counts.
A lump of vomit that may be worth over $250,000 was found inside a beached sperm whale after it appeared on Nogales Beach in La Palma, Canary Islands, last month.
The whale died after the nearly 20-pound chunk of the substance, known as ambergris, caused chronic obstructive inflammation in the animal’s colon, according to experts at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
They told Jam Press that the obstruction was 33 feet long and nearly 2 feet in diameter.
Ambergris, a coveted substance sought by perfume companies to make the scent of their products last longer, is secreted from the animal’s bile duct in the intestines.
Though the exact origin of ambergris is still a mystery to scientists, it is commonly believed that the pungent material is formed when the whales eat irritants, such as a beak, and produce a slippery substance to protect their digestive organs from the offending particles.
It is estimated that only 1% of sperm whales are actually capable of secreting ambergris.
Due to the rarity of the puke, a gram is worth $27 while a pound could rake in $10,000.
The UK’s Natural History Museum claimed that the waxy, yet solid substance was used in early Arab culture as a medicine to treat many diseases, including those of the brain, heart and senses, and as an aphrodisiac.
According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, it is illegal to kill sperm whales almost anywhere on the planet, as the mammals are considered endangered.
While the ownership of the newly discovered mass has yet to be determined, a spokesman for the university told Jam Press that it will remain in the custody of the school until the government decides what to do with it.
“If it is worth something, the island government will sell it and distribute the money among the people who need it the most,” said Antonio Fernández, referring to citizens displaced in 2021 by a volcanic eruption.
This is not the first time whale vomit has made the news.
In June 2021, a Yemen fisherman caught a lucky break when he and his crew accidentally caught a 280-pound of ambergris worth $1.5 million.
Earlier that year, a 15-pound piece of ambergris worth $230,000 washed up on the shore of Thailand and was nabbed by another lucky fisherman, who said he was “not in a hurry to sell this. An agent will find an international buyer for it.”