Surachet Chanchu, a beach scavenger in southern Thailand, struck gold. Chanchu found a lump that is suspected to be the highly valued ambergris. The man is eagerly awaiting government officials to verify the quality of the ambergris. Once the quality is verified, the piece could be sold for more than £500,000 depending on the quality.
Chanchu spends his day walking up and down the beach in Songkhla. Usually, the man manages to pick up pieces of washed-up trash or trash left behind by beachgoers. He then sells the recyclable waste to earn a daily wage.
On December 11, Chanchu's daily beach scavenging trip turned out to be more fruitful than he expected.
While scouring the sand to find recyclable material, he spotted a large grey and black lump. The lump resembled the extremely rare and expensive material, ambergris.
Chanchu decided to carry the lump back home. He informed his friends and family of his find. One of his friends used a cigarette lighter to melt a small bit of the large lump. When the heat made the lump melt, it emitted a pleasant, musky smell. It is this smell that makes the material highly sought after by perfume manufacturers. The smell confirmed that Chanchu's suspicion was correct, he had managed to find ambergris.
After confirming that the lump was indeed ambergris, Chanchu contacted government officers. The officers are conducting tests on the lump to find out the quality. The highest quality of ambergris sells for around £14,000 for a pound, the Daily Mail reported. The 37lb lump can fetch £536,500 if it is proven to be of high quality.
Ambergris or "whale poo/vomit" is created in the intestine of sperm whales. A mixture of squid beaks, ambrein, and epicoprostanol is excreted as excreta or vomit by the whales. The black mass floats around in the ocean and gets bleached over-time. The initially foul-smelling excrement slowly starts getting the signature musky smell over time. Some ambergris which has been found have been recorded to be more than 100 years old.
Eventually, when the lump turns grey and releases the pleasant smell, it is known as ambergris. The alluring natural odour is what makes it a prized ingredient in cosmetics.