Fisherman to scoop £1M after finding huge lump of rare ‘whale vomit’

A LUCKY fisherman is in line for a huge windfall of more than £1million after finding rare ‘whale vomit’ washed up on a Thai beach.

Narong Phetcharaj, was returning to shore when he spotted the strange lump on the coast of Niyom, southern Thailand.

Suspecting it might be worth some money, the fisherman took the lump to experts at the Prince of Songkla University, who identified it as ambergris.

Ambergris is an indigestible substance vomited by sperm whales which solidifies and floats on the surface of the ocean.

It has been called the "treasure of the sea" and "floating gold" as it is sold for up to £30,000 per kilogram .

Its value lies in its role in the fragrance industry as high-end perfumes from houses such as Chanel and Lanvin use it to fix scents to human skin, National Geographic explains.

The substance is produced by sperm whales when bile ducts in the gastrointestinal tract make secretions to ease the passage of large or sharp objects. 

The whale them vomits the mucus, which hardens up and floats on the surface of the sea.

Mr Phetcharaj says his blob weighed about 30kg and believes he could be in line for more than £1million.

He said: "None of the villagers has ever seen or touched a real whale ambergris before and that’s why everybody was happy,”

"I'm so excited; I don’t know what to do. I plan to sell the ambergris as I’ve already received a certificate to prove that it's real.

"If I can get a good price, I'll retire from working as a fisherman and throw a party for my friends."

What is ambergris?

For many years its origin remained a mystery.

Ambergris has been called the treasure of the sea and floating gold.

Fossilised evidence of the substance dates back 1.75 million years, and it is likely that humans have been using it for more than 1,000 years.

It was so mysterious that for years it was assumed to be hardened sea foam or large bird poo.

However, it was not until large-scale whaling began in the 1800s that the identity of its sole producer, the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), was uncovered.

Sperm whales eat large quantities of cephalopods such as squid and cuttlefish.

In most cases the indigestible elements of their prey, such as the beaks and pens, are vomited out before digestion.

In rare circumstances these parts move into the whale's intestines and bind together, explains the Natural History Museum.

They slowly become a solid mass of ambergris, growing inside the whale over many years.

It is thought that ambergris protects the whale's internal organs from the sharp squid beaks.

Some believe that the whale regurgitates the mass, earning it its well-known nickname 'whale vomit'.

But, Richard Sabin, curator of marine mammals at the museum believes "that ambergris forms in the intestines and passes along with faecal matter, forming an obstruction in the rectum".

It is uncommon, found in less than 5% of whale carcasses.

Ambrein, an odourless alcohol, is extracted from ambergris and used to make a perfume's scent last longer.

Last year, a fisherman was walking by the sea when he noticed several rock-like pale lumps washed up on a beach in Nakhon Si Thammarat, southern Thailand.

Naris Suwannasang and his family tested the surface by burning it with a lighter, causing it to melt instantly.

Naris said the blobs weighed 220lb – or 100kg – potentially making it one of the biggest-ever finds of whale vomit.

In 2019, another fisherman discovered a 14lbs piece of Ambergris while he was walking along a beach in southern Thailand.

Jumrus Thiachot, 55, kept it in his shed and carried on working, earning around 400 baht (£10.25) a day.

When officials from the local government visited his home, they confirmed the waxy lump was genuine whale vomit.

Also in 2016, Alan Derrick and his son flogged a "smelly rubbery" rock the found on Morecambe beach in Weston-super-mare, Somerset, for £65,000.

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