It Started Out as an Innocent Stroll Along the Beach...
...but This Walk Was Out of the Ordinary
One of their favorite things about these walks was finding strange objects on the sands. Having come across enough unusual objects to have come to distinguish between trash and treasure, they were puzzled by the mound they stumbled upon.
Then They Found Something...
But What Was It?
To the Williams, it just looked like a smooth, gray oval. Knowing water could shape rocks into this kind of shape and texture, they didn’t immediately mark it as anything exceptional. However, something about it made the couple pause, and for good reason...
There Was Something Familiar About It...
The artifact had a strange glossy feel to it, but there seemed to be other materials trapped together—some rocky pieces as well as some sea shells created what looked to be its body. Gary and Angela noticed the strangest thing only as they got closer.
The odd "rock" the Williams had come across stank! Not just a dead fish smell either. This had a retch all to its own. Gary described it as “a cross between a squid and farmyard manure.”
Know When to Walk Away, Know When to Run
Could it Be Ambergris?
The couple's guess was that the odd substance was ambergris, but if that guess proved to be incorrect then it could be worthless. But if gross was any indication of value, then they might have hit a jackpot!
What is Ambergris?
Ambergris = Whale Vomit
Then, the clump either gets passed out of the whale’s body—we'll let you guess which end it comes out of—or it stays inside. Either way, this meshed-together goodness is basically hard whale vomit. This isn’t much different from another creature that does something similar; can you guess which?
Ambergris = Pearls
So What's it Worth?
A small, three-and-a-half-pound chunk of whale vomit has a hefty price tag bringing in potentially more than $70,000! Pretty good find for just wanting to walk on the beach, right?
But It Gets Sweeter With Age
Always Have a Plan B
It Was a Staple in Ancient Cultures
Historical Uses for Ambergris
Medieval doctors during the plague even decided that the best way to keep the smell of the infected and dying at bay was to use ambergris as one of the scents in their masks.
That Says A Lot
You know things are rough when the scent of whale vomit is preferable to breathing fresh air.
It Was a Staple in the Royal Diet
They've Got Bad Taste
Ambergris is Illegal in Countries (Like the U.S.)
It's a National Tragedy
Moby Dick Taught Us a Valuable Lesson
The reason behind these laws is for the sake of the whales. As we all know from Moby Dick, whales have been hunted almost to the point of extinction. Even though ambergris is considered a waste product, the value of it is so high that poachers are still willing to break the law to make a few bucks. Those lucky enough to find this on their beaches though need to make sure it is the genuine article.
The Williams couple needed verification from an authority, so they shipped their potentially newfound treasure to New Zealand and France. Crossing their fingers, they hoped that 1.) the package would be delivered, and 2.) the experts would send back good news. And good news they got!