An Australian couple who picked up an odd-looking fatty lump from a quiet beach are in line for a cash windfall.
Leon Wright and his wife took home a 14.75kg lump of ambergris, found in the innards of sperm whales and used in perfumes after it has been vomited up.
Sought after because of its rarity, ambergris can float on the ocean for years before washing ashore.
Worth up to $20 a gram, Mr Wright’s find on a South Australian beach could net his family US$295,000 (Â£165,300).
Mythologised for thousands of years, ambergris has been referred to as “floating gold” by scientists and scavengers who long for a windfall amid the surf.
Expelled from the abdomen of the giant sperm whale, often while hundreds of kilometres away from land, ambergris is a natural excrement thought to be used by the whale as a digestion aid.
The hard beaks of giant squid, a main source of food for the whale, have often been found inside lumps of ambergris.
Initially, ambergris is a soft, foul-smelling waste matter that floats on the ocean.
But years of exposure to the sun and the salt water of the ocean transform the waste into a smooth, exotic lump of compact rock that boasts a waxy feel and a sweet, alluring smell.