Blog: Beachcombers strike gold with whale 'vomit'

They say that one man's trash is another man's treasure. But in this case, one whale's bile is man's perfume.

Ambergris is a fatty excrement spewed by whales, and it can float for years in the ocean before washing ashore. The foul-smelling bile can solidify over years, soaking up the sun and ocean breeze to eventually turn into a sweet, smooth lump of perfume. In fact, it is used as an ingredient for perfumes and medicines.

An Australian couple walking on the beach found the rare substance recently, and not knowing what it was, turned to the Internet to investigate. An ecologist finally deemed the rock to be ambergris, or what some scientists and scavengers call "floating gold." According to a report from the BBC, the couple will net $295,000 from the discovery.

Still, ambergris is banned in the United States under endangered species legislation. Wouldn't it be great if cat's vomit was worth the same?

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    Stefanie Olsen covers technology and science.

     

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