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Last Updated: Tuesday January 24 2006 17:51 GMT

Whale vomit find worth a fortune

Ambergris (pic:
A lucky Australian couple struck gross gold when they found a pricey pile of whale sick on the beach.

Leon and Loralee Wright were curious about a weird waxy stone they found in Streaky Bay, South Australia.

So a marine expert identified it for them as a 14.75kg lump of ambergris, which is used to make perfumes, after it's been vomited up by sperm whales.

It sounds gross, but the sweet-smelling sick is worth 11 a gram, meaning the Wright's find could earn them 165,300!

Sperm whale
Ambergris comes from the stomach of sperm whales

Sperm whales make ambergris in their stomachs to help them digest food, but eventually throw it up.

It starts off soft and foul smelling, but after years floating on the ocean, it is slowly hardened by the action of the sun and salt water. This also makes it smell very sweet.

The hard beaks of giant squid, a main source of food for the whale, have often been found inside lumps of ambergris.

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