Father and son discover rare ambergris on beach walk that could net them thousands of pounds
Ambergris is a natural by-product of sperm whales that is worth more than gold
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Before father Ronnie Humphreys and his five-year-old son Archie headed out on their daily walk to Leven Beach, they would not have thought that they would be returning home with a lottery ticket in rock form.
That's what happened when the duo discovered rare ambergris - a natural product of sperm whales' digestive system used widely in the perfume industry that is worth more than gold. A group of fisherman famously found themselves £1 million better off when they unearthed a whopping 127kg of the substance in 2021 - but value does vary on quantity.
Even though Ronnie and Archie's discovery was far smaller - around 2kg - they are still set to earn a pretty penny. It is estimated that the duo could be thousands of pounds richer.
This is one of a few surprising discoveries revealed recently, after archaeologists in Wales found what they believe is the oldest comb ever in the UK. Researchers claims it is more than 3,000 years old.
Talking to Fife Today about their rare find, Ronnie Humphreys said: "Alfie is autistic, so as part of his routine we go to the local beach after nursery during the holidays. We go down to the rock pools and we look for crabs and bits and pieces.
"Alfie stood on something. I thought it was a sea coral, but we googled it and it came back as ambergris, so I bagged it up. I didn’t think much of it at first, but then it came to me when we were at the bottom of the beach. Out of curiosity we went back and took a picture."
What is ambergris?
Ambergris is a naturally occurring by-product of sperm whales’ digestive system. Whilst squids are one of their favourite foods, they have trouble digesting their sharp beaks. Even though they will mostly regurgitate them, occasionally the beaks make their way into the whales’ intestines where a waxy substance is formed to protect the whales’ insides from being damaged.
This waxy and sticky-like substance is then excreted and it then ends up floating in the sea and can occasionally be found washed up on beaches. It is used by the perfume industry as an ingredient in the most expensive scents, as well as previously being highly-prized for its uses as incense, an aphrodisiac and in medicine.
If someone thinks that they have come across some ambergris during a beach walk - much like Ronnie and Archie - the first major sign is its distinct smell which is akin to manure but ambergris does smell nicer as it gets older. You can also conduct the 'hot needle test' which involves you placing one on it with it melting through quickly leaving a glossy, sticky black or caramel liquid behind.
How much is ambergris worth?
The value of ambergris can vary. Higher qualities of the substance can go for more than $27 a gram, but as it is more than often found in huge chunks, those who find it walk away with a much larger lump sum.