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Giant Find: 20 Pounds of Rare 'Liquid Gold' Discovered in Sperm Whale Beached on Spanish Island

Lump of 'Liquid Gold' Found Inside Beached Sperm Whale
Source: University of Las Palmas

A researcher from the University of Las Palmas discovered a 20-pound lump of ambergris inside a beached sperm whale.

Dec. 11 2023, Published 1:02 p.m. ET

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A significant discovery has been made within the body of a stranded sperm whale on one of Spain’s Canary Islands earlier this year.

Antonio Fernández Rodríguez, the head of the Institute of Animal Health and Food Security at the University of Las Palmas, launched an investigation into the whale's demise, according to The Guardian.

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Upon examining the whale's digestive tract, Rodríguez unearthed a 20-pound mass of a rare substance known as ambergris from its stomach. He suspected that the lump might have caused a fatal blockage in the whale's digestive system, The Guardian reported.

Ambergris, often called "floating gold," is a rare material generated by secretions enveloping hard food items such as squid beaks and cuttlefish parts within the intestinal tracts of sperm whales, as explained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Apart from its pleasing aroma, ambergris contains ambrein, an odorless chemical that enhances the potency and longevity of fragrances.

It is illegal to collect, possess or sell ambergris in the United States due to its association with endangered marine mammals, as outlined by NOAA.

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Typically found floating in the ocean after expulsion from whales, ambergris can occasionally become lodged within the digestive tracts of whales, such as the with the La Palma whale case.

The mass of ambergris Rodríguez collected is estimated to be worth around €500,000, or approximately $540,000, according to The Guardian.

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In light of this discovery, the university is actively seeking a buyer for the substantial ambergris lump. Rodríguez expressed his desire for the proceeds from the sale to contribute to the revitalization of the area, which had previously suffered from a volcanic eruption in 2021, according to GreekReporter.com.

Ambergris is produced by approximately one in every 100 sperm whales and is frequently expelled from their bodies, a phenomenon learned during the advent of widespread whaling in the 19th century.

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