Money

A Man Stumbled Upon Whale Vomit on the Beach. He Didn’t Realize It Was Worth Millions

Why is whale vomit so valuable? 
IMAGE Wikimedia Commons
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If you happen to stumble upon a waxy mass on the beach, you might be set for a decent windfall. 

A fisherman from Thailand found a strange mass on the beach while walking one morning in October 2019. He took it home, but didn’t realize it was was one of the most expensive substances on the planet, so he chucked it into a dump and tried to burn it. 

The waxy mass that weighed 10 kilograms was actually the vomit of a sperm whale, and it was valued at P25 million. It was only after a friend told him it could be valuable when he asked help from the government to identify the substance. 

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Why is whale vomit so valuable?

Whale vomit is considered one of the key ingredients in the luxury perfume industry. Perfumers even have a fancy name for it—ambergris. The rare substance is used to make perfume scents last longer. 

In the absence of ambergris, perfumers use ambroxide, a synthetic substance that produces similar results as ambergris. 

Ambergris is only produced in the guts of sperm whales, which vomit the substance occasionally. Scientists think sperm whales produce ambergris to coat hard and sharp objects they ingest so they don’t damage the whales’ intestines. Such sharp objects found inside ambergris include teeth from giant squids. 

A Bowl of Whale Vomit

Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
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Is ambergris found in the Philippines?

Ambergris can be found anywhere in the world where there are sperm whales. Luckily, sperm whales have a worldwide distribution and can be found in the Philippines. 

Ambergris can be found floating in the sea after a sperm whale vomits it. But many of the ambergris found in the past were washed up on the beach. 

In 1995, a Filipino fisherman in Camarines Sur came across a dark waxy substance floating on the ocean. It measured three feet long and two feet wide and weighed 50 kilograms. The fisherman brought it home and used it as a small coffee table.

Four Large Ambergris 

Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Ambergris price: How much is whale vomit in the market?

Depending on the quality and color of the ambergris, its price could fetch for P300,000 to P2.5 million per kilogram. Ambergris with lighter coloring or those that have an amber tone are the most valuable. 

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Unfortunately, buying and selling ambergris is illegal in the Philippines, as well as in many Western countries such as the U.S. and Australia because it is a product of an endangered species. 

The Fisheries Administrative Order No. 198 and the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act specifically state that the killing, hunting, buying, selling, trading, and transporting of all kinds of whales and dolphins and their products are illegal. 

That means you cannot sell ambergris if you ever stumble upon it on a beach in the Philippines. You cannot transport it either to another country where it is legal to trade it. What you can do is just keep it at home or donate it to public museums. 

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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