Couple finds smelly, ugly lump on beach. But what it actually was—was worth more than imaginable

November 5, 2017 10:36 am Last Updated: November 5, 2017 11:04 am

What started out as a routine walk on the beach turned into a a $70,000 discovery for Lancashire couple.

It was a normal day for Gary and Angela Williams. Wake up, have some breakfast, catch up of the daily news and, of course, go for their daily walk along the beach.

The cliche romantic walk on the beach comes with many benefits. The fresh air in your face, the sun shining, the relaxing sound of the water crashing on the shore and, of course, the opportunity to connect with your loved one. For the Williams’s, however, those benefits multiplied when they made an unusual discovery on the beach.

Mr. Williams told reporters that he and his wife were on a regular stroll on the beach when they started to smell “rotting fish.”

Having not smelt this on the beach before, they decided to investigate. The couple followed the wretched smell until they came a small piece of ambergris.

“It feels like a rock hard rubber ball. Its texture is like wax, like a candle.” Mr. Williams said. “When you touch it you get wax to you fingers.”

Fortunately, the couple knew what ambergris was and had an inkling that this ugly lump was it.

Knowing what it might be and the potential value it held, he used his scarf to wrap before taking it home. A rare substance the found weighed about 3.5 pounds—which in turn could be worth up to $70, 000.


Ambergris is a substance produced from the bile duct in the intestines of a sperm whale.

While some may think Ambergris is essentially ‘whale vomit’ it’s actually closer to ‘poop’ from sperm whales.

“Ambergris is definitely not vomit,” Christopher Kemp, author of “Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris,” said.”It’s more like poop, and it comes from the same place as poop, but it’s only made by a small percentage of sperm whales, as a result of indigestion.”

So why is it so valuable?

Ambergris has the ability to keep a scent on a human skin for long period of time—and is thus coveted within the fragrance industry. High-end companies like Chanel and Lanvin are always on the look out for it, to create long-lasting, designer perfumes. Depending on the size and smell of it, ambergris can be worth thousands an ounce.


After this secretion is cleared out of a whale’s system, it can float around the ocean for decades without anyone realizing it. This is gives it time to harden, and it gets its ‘rotting fish’ smell from being in the water for so long, soaking up the smells.

Eventually this miniature treasure washes up on shore for the unsuspecting beach walker to discover it. The Williamses made their discovery while strolling on Middleton Sands beach near Morecambe Bay.

The substance gifted to the water is often called “floating gold” because of the price it commands when found.

But, before you go walking up and down the beaches looking for your treasure, keep in mind that only a small percentage of sperm whales produce Ambergris.

It’s safe to say the Williams’s found a discovery that will make a positive impact on their lives and when ask what they were going to do with their new found riches, Mr. Williams answered:

“If it is worth a lot of money, it will go a long way towards buying us a static caravan,” said Gary. “It would be a dream come true.”

A dream come true that all came from a routine walk along the beach.