Struggling fisherman's staggering $1.7 million find on the beach

A struggling fisherman found a rare piece of ambergris whale vomit floating on a Thai beach.

Narong Phetcharaj, who normally only earns a few hundred dollars a month, was returning to shore when he saw a strange object being pushed by currents in Surat Thani province's Niyom beach on Monday (local time).

Curious, he went to the mysterious object and realised it could be valuable whale vomit he had seen on television before as it had the same waxy texture and appearance.

The fisherman later took the 30-kilogram object to experts at the Prince of Songkla University to have it tested before the results proved it was genuine ambergris.

Narong Phetcharaj posing with the ambergris whale vomit.
Narong Phetcharaj found ambergris whale vomit while coming home from work on the beach. Source: Viral Press/Australscope

Previous pieces of ambergris have sold for between US$37,500 (about AU$51,982) and US$42,791 (AU$59,316) a kilogram, giving Narong's find an eye-watering value if it has a similar quality.

It could now be worth as much as US$1.25 million (AU$1.73 million) based on previous prices.

"None of the villagers has ever seen or touched a real whale ambergris before that’s why everybody was happy," the fisherman said.

He kept it wrapped in a towel for safety and hid it in a cardboard box before informing his relatives about the discovery.

"I'm so excited I don’t know what to do. I plan to sell the ambergris as I’ve already received a certificate to prove that it's real," Narong said.

"If I can get a good price, I'll retire from working as a fisherman and throw a party for my friends."

Thailand's Niyom beach, in Surat Thani province, where the ambergris worth $1.7 million was found. Source: Viral Press/Australscope
Thailand's Niyom beach, in Surat Thani province, where the ambergris worth $1.7 million was found. Source: Viral Press/Australscope

What is ambergris?

Ambergris is produced by sperm whales when bile ducts in the gastrointestinal tract make secretions to ease the passage of large or sharp objects.

The whale then vomits the mucilage which solidifies and floats on the surface of the ocean.

The solid chunk has a foul smell at first but after the mucilage dries out, it develops a sweet and long-lasting fragrance, which makes it a sought-after ingredient in the perfume industry.

In April 2016, a 1.57-kilogram ambergris ball found in Lancashire sold for £50,000 (U$93,279) while in November of the same year, three Omani fishermen found 80 kilograms of ambergris and sold it for US$3 million (AU$4.16 million).

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