- Why does something so precious have to be so utterly disgusting?
It’s true – one man’s trash can be another one’s treasure. Just yesterday we brought you a story about an ancient, precious Chinese bowl found at a yard sale.
But no matter what, you’d probably never expect anyone to be happy about finding a pile of puke. But that, my friend, is where you would be wrong.
Let’s take a trip to southern Thailand. That is where we’ll find the town of Nakhon Si Tammarat and its resident, 49-year-old Siriporn Niamrin.
On February 23, Niamrin was on a walk at a beach after a rainstorm, some 500 yards from her home. That’s a small win right there – a nice little seaside property.
But as she was walking along, she discovered a strange lump, reported The Sun. About a foot wide and two feet long, the thing resembled a rock, with an off-white color with brown patches.
It definitely wasn’t a rock, though. The texture was all weird, and the lump smelled faintly of fish.
Most people would probably just have ignored the thing as some kind of garbage of the sea and carried on. Niamrin, though, thought that the misshapen blob might somehow be worth a few bucks.
So, she decided to pick the 15-pound object up and carried it back to her house. She would soon be very, very glad that she did.
The Real Deal
Once she got home, Niamrin showed the blob to her neighbors, asking them what they thought it might be. Based on its consistency, the location of discovery, and the fishy stench, they told her that it might just be whale vomit.
As we already said, most of us probably wouldn’t be too happy that we picked up a chunk of puke. But to Niamrin, this was excellent news.
Whale vomit – also known as ambergris – is an incredibly precious commodity. It’s widely used as an ingredient in the most expensive perfumes, and as such it can sell for a pretty penny.
To check whether the thing was indeed genuine, bona fide whale upchuck, Niamrin and her neighbors held a match to the lump. The material quickly began to melt, and as they moved the flame away, it re-solidified just as fast.
Just like real deal ambergris does.
Niamrin isn’t taking any chances, though, and has asked the local town council to arrange for an expert to come and evaluate the lump. It’s well worth it – based on recent market prices, Niamrin’s hunk of puke could be worth more than $250,000.
“If I really have the genuine ambergris, I can help my community once I find a buyer for it,” the selfless Niamrin told the Sun.
“I feel lucky to have found such a large piece. I hope it will bring me money. I’m keeping it safe in my house and I have asked the local council to visit to check it,” she added.
Other Lucky Finders of Puke
This isn’t the first some lucky beachgoer has discovered a pile of ambergris that ends up selling for an absolutely filthy amount of money. It seems that southern Thailand is a real hot spot for ambergris.
Just a few months ago, in November 2020, a poor fisherman from the same province as Niamrin struck gold during a walk. Only this time, the haul was the biggest in recorded history.
Naris Suwannasang, 60, discovered several ambergris chunks, each weighing about 220 pounds, wrote The Sun. Suwannasang’s find was worth nearly $3.5 million, according to estimates.
Imagine going from a fisherman to a millionaire overnight just because you happened to find some vomit.
A similar story played out also in October 2019. Another broke fisherman, 55-year-old Jumrus Thiachot, found 14 pounds of ambergris washed up on a beach.
It wasn’t quite the multi-million-dollar discovery that Suwannasang stumbled upon. Thiachot still made more than $300,000 from it.
That’s a life-changing amount of money for anyone, let alone a penniless Thai fisherman.
It Might Actually Be Poop
In case you’re still scratching your head over what ambergris actually is, well… Like we said, it’s solidified whale puke.
It is used in the finest perfumes to help scents adhere to the skin. It has been used for this purpose – and various others – for more than 1,000 years, according to the UK Natural History Musem.
But for centuries, its origins remained a complete mystery. When it was found, it happened exactly as it did with Niamrin and the others – somebody suddenly stumbled upon it on a beach.
Due to its rarity and mysterious source, it’s no wonder that ambergris quickly became a precious commodity. Its high value earned the material such nicknames as “floating gold” and “treasure of the sea.”
It wasn’t until widespread whaling kicked off in the 18th century that whalers discovered ambergris inside sperm whales. That’s when it hit them – this stuff was sperm whale vomit.
Well, calling it vomit is actually kind of misleading. Ambergris is a collection of indigestible material from sperm whales’ prey that forms into huge chunks in their intestines.
It’s currently unknown how whales excrete the chunks of ambergris that ultimately end up washing ashore and making some lucky finder’s day. But considering that it forms inside the intestine, it’s probably safe to say that exits from one end of the whales’ digestive tract.
So in reality, it might not be whale puke – it could be whale poop. It’s a good thing this stuff is valuable, because nobody in their right mind would probably otherwise want anything to do with it.