Morecambe ‘whale vomit’ finds are on the increase

Len Robinson's "ambergris"
Len Robinson's "ambergris"

Two couples who picked up smelly rubbery rocks on the beach in Morecambe Bay are hoping they will turn out to be lumps of whale vomit – worth a potential £50,000 each.

Gary and Angela Williams from Overton were strolling along Middleton Sands beach when they smelled rotting fish.

They followed the stench and spotted an unusual looking ‘rock’ near the water’s edge which looked like a piece of ambergris – or ‘whale vomit’ – they once saw in a newspaper.

Just days later, Len Robinson from Bare was out walking his dog near the Battery in Morecambe when he came across a very similar item rolling about in the water.

He picked it up and took it home, and is now trying to find out whether what he found is indeed ambergris.

The highly-prized substance is used in the manufacture of perfume and Gary and Angela wrapped the waxy lump in a scarf and took it home. Gary, 48, put it on his fishing scales and found it weighed 1.57kg.

Gary and Angela, a 49 year-old nurse, are now in negotiations with potential buyers over the lump which is 
slightly smaller than a rugby ball.

The rock is yet to be verified by experts but could turn out to be the substance known as ‘floating gold’ due to its high value to perfume makers.

Len was out for a walk with his wife Judy, his daughter, and his dog.

He said: “I was down in the sand with the dog while Judy and my daughter were in the Breeze cafe.

“There was this object rolling about on the water’s edge.

“It looked a lot like the one the other fellow had found, so I picked it up, wrapped it up and took it home.

“It looked like an overgrown potato.

“I washed all the mud off it, and weighed it and it’s just over 2kg.

“It smells bloody awful, and now I’m just trying to work out what to do with it.”

Len said he had contacted Lancaster University and Lancaster City Council but could not get through to anyone.

Ambergris is hardened intestinal slurry from a sperm whale which takes years to form and which is thought to protect the animal from hard and sharp objects it eats.

It can float in the ocean for years before washing ashore and years of exposure to the sun and salt water transform it into a smooth, grey, lump of compact waxy rock.

Gary, an engineer, said: “It was a bit of a shock. It was down a section of the beach where no-one really walks.

“It smells bad though. It’s a very distinctive smell, like a cross between squid and farmyard manure.

“If it is worth a lot of money it will go a long way towards buying us a static caravan, it would be a dream come 
true.”

The couple have put it in safe storage while they consult experts – one in France and another in New Zealand.

The website www.ambergris.co.nz/identification.htm, says a “hot needle test” can be done to test whether the substance is ambergris.

It advises people to heat a needle and touch it briefly to the surface of the item.

If it’s ambergris, the surface will melt instantly; turning to an oily, molten black residue and a small puff of musky smelling smoke will be emitted.

There are also examples of materials that look similar to ambergris, and an appraisal form that can be sent away with details of the find.

If you think you may have found some ambergris but you are still not sure; you can visit our ‘sell ambergris’ page for an appraisal.

You can also check the “Look-alike” page for photos and descriptions of those materials most commonly mistaken for ambergris