Whale Vomit Goes for $17,000 at Auction

A chunk of whale vomit, found on a North Wales beach, has been auctioned off. Adam Partridge Auctioneers & Valuers

Updated | A dog walker who was strolling along Angelesey Beach in North Wales recently came across a rather unusual find in the sand: a hardened chunk of whale vomit. Instead of leaving the rock-like lump there, the industrious beachcomber claimed it and ended up making a pretty penny as a result: BBC reports that it was some pricey puke, selling at an auction for about $17,000, well above the expected $11,000.

The vomit, which was purchased by an anonymous bidder in France via telephone, would appear to be a strange artifact not usually sought after by landlubbers. But it happens that the 2.4-pound lump bears a rather rare element that's highly coveted in the perfume industry: ambergris.

The substance, which has been used by the likes of haute couture mainstays including Chanel, helps to ensure that scents stay on human skin for prolonged periods of time. Valued at thousands of dollars, it's said to smell musky and earthy, according to National Geographic. It's banned in the United States, however, since sperm whales are endangered.

While researchers are unclear about where the ambergris originates from, they do know that sperm whales often expel the grease-laden ambergris into the ocean, and it then hardens and floats onto shores. It's not just in Wales, either: Back in 2012, an 8-year-old boy and his father found over a pound of ambergris, which was valued at about $63,000, in Dorset, England.

So next time you see a sperm whale walk into a bar, stay alert.

This article has been updated to reflect that the whale vomit was expected to fetch $11,000 at auction.