'Foul-smelling' beach find worth £95k?
PUBLISHED: 09:02 26 August 2016
A father and son duo from Weston-super-Mare may have made the find of their lives after discovering a lump of foul-smelling whale vomit worth a potential £95,000.
7 facts about ambergris
1. Ambergris is a solid, waxy substance produced inside the intestines of sperm whales.
2. It is produced to protect a whale’s gut from the very sharp beaks of squid, which is its main source of food.
3. In some cases a whale will excrete ambergris as faeces, but if it is too large it will be expelled via the mouth as vomit.
4. It is excreted hundreds of miles away from land and can float in the ocean for as long as 30 years.
5. While it is floating, the ambergris reacts with the ocean’s salt water to create a white coating.
6. Fresh ambergris has a marine, fecal odour, but as it ages it aquires a sweet, earthy scent.
7. Ambergris is used in the production of perfume – to make the scent last for longer – and so it is very valuable.
The mound of sperm whale vomit – known as ambergris – could prove life changing for 39-year-old Tom Derrick, from Worle, and his 67-year-old father, Alan Derrick, from Milton.
Ambergris is used to make a perfume’s scent last for longer and so it is highly valuable in the cosmetics industry.
Tom and Alan were walking at Sand Point, in Weston, on Sunday when Tom spotted something out of place.
He said: “I thought it was a lump of clay to begin with, but it really doesn’t smell very nice.
“It caught my eye because it was a nice bright white colour, rather than the murky brown we are used to seeing in Weston, so it looked very out of place.”
Alan, who is an angler, quickly recognised the musty-smelling substance as ambergris, and warned his son to ‘guard it with his life’.
Alan said: “Whenever the weather is bad and I can’t go fishing I walk the beach looking for fishing tackle. On Sunday, Tom decided to come with me and it was just as well he did.
“I actually had a fishing hook stuck in my finger when he found it, so I was busy trying to sort that out when he brought it up to me – I just said ‘son, if that’s what I think it is, guard it with your life’.”
Tom and Alan have sent small samples of the potential ambergris to specialists in France, Italy and New Zealand, who will check its authenticity.
However, the pair have already conducted at-home tests which confirmed it is likely to be ambergris and so they have listed it on eBay with a starting price of £65,000.
Alan said: “It weighs 1,195g in total. Tom put it on eBay and we had four people looking at it within seconds. There is another small piece on eBay and the seller is asking for £80 per gram – which would mean ours is worth £95,600.”
The father and son have not yet decided how to spend their windfall, but Alan hopes to spoil Tom’s three-year-old son Matthew.
Tom, who works as a service engineer, said: “I’m trying not to think about what I would spend the money on until I have it, but it would be amazing to catch a break – the only way I’ve ever known how to earn money is to go out and do some hard graft.
“Obviously it’s not fully certain, yet. I’m really excited, but a bit apprehensive until we know for sure.”