“Floating Gold: A valuable find inside a dead whale

Scientists on the Canary Island of La Palma have discovered a treasure worth £425,000 in the digestive system of a washed up sperm whale. This treasure, known as ambergris or ‘floating gold’, is of immense value to perfume manufacturers. Antonio Fernandez Rodriguez, who discovered this precious lump weighing 9.5 kilograms hopes that its sale will help with the necessary repairs after the volcanic eruption that devastated the island two years ago.

The tragic story of the whale

As an autopsy revealed, the 19-meter-long sperm whale tragically died due to sepsis caused by a piece of ambergris. It was eventually washed up on Nogales beach last month. Despite the difficult conditions caused by heavy seas and high tide, Rodriguez, head of the Institute of Animal Health and Food Security at the University of Las Palmas, was determined to complete the analysis.

A surprising discovery

During his examination, Rodriguez suspected digestive problems and discovered that something solid was lodged in the whale’s intestines. To his surprise, he extracted a stone about 50-60 centimeters in diameter and weighing 9.5 kilograms. Unaware that Rodriguez had returned to shore, he stumbled upon a valuable piece of ambergris.

Unlocking the mystery of ambergris

Amber, also called floating gold or gray amber, is a rare substance extracted by about one in 100 sperm whales. Its importance in the perfume industry dates back for centuries. However, the origin of the substance remained a mystery until the widespread use of whaling in the early 19th century.

The process of ambergris formation

Sperm whales consume large quantities of squid and cuttlefish, most of which are not digested and are subsequently discarded. However, some of it remains in the whale’s intestines and eventually binds together to form ambergris. This “floating gold” is usually excreted, with the result that it is found floating in the sea. However, in some cases, such as in the case of the whale found on the island of La Palma, the ambergris overgrows, causing the intestines to rupture and the whale to die.

A lucky find

Finding an animal carcass can be a lucky find for fishermen or beach vacationers. Ambergris is of great value, especially in the perfume industry, due to its woody aroma and high ambrein content. Ambrein is an odorless alcohol that prolongs the staying power of fragrances.

Trade restrictions and financing challenges

Despite the value of ambergris, a number of countries, including the United States, Australia and India, have banned trade in it to discourage whaling. Nevertheless, the University of Las Palmas is actively seeking a buyer for the valuable piece to fund necessary repairs following the island’s devastating volcanic eruption in 2021. The eruption caused more than £685 million worth of damage, destroying many homes and businesses.

Rodriguez said he hoped the proceeds from the sale of ambergris would benefit the island of La Palma, where the whale tragically died.

The discovery of £425,000 worth of ambergris inside a dead whale on the island of La Palma has delighted scientists and perfume manufacturers alike. This amazing find sheds light on the mysterious substance known as “floating gold”. While a buyer for this valuable piece is being sought, the proceeds could help in rebuilding the devastation caused by the recent volcanic eruption. The story of this beached whale serves as a testament to the treasure hidden in the depths of the ocean.

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