Dog sniffs out 'whale vomit' on Lancashire beach worth £100k

Jan 31, 2013

'There's gold out there', says owner after finding rare rock of ambergris produced by sperm whales

WHEN Ken Wilman, a 50-year-old man from Lancashire, stumbled across a dirty yellow rock on his local Morecambe beach, only his dog Madge took any interest.

But when he got home he realised what he had found: a 6lb lump of ambergris, a rare substance known as 'whale vomit' worth up to £100,000.

"For some unknown reason I went onto my laptop and I put whale vomit into Google," he told the BBC. "I didn't actually realise what it was at first and couldn't understand why Madge was so interested in it... When I saw how much it could be worth, I went back and grabbed it."

Wilman, a single unemployed father-of-one, has been offered £43,000 from a French dealer – but experts say it could be worth double. He told Sky he wants to spend the money on a holiday to Peru with his 15-year-old son, as well as a treat for Madge.

Ambergris is a substance secreted by sperm whales. Over the years and through exposure to the sun it turns into a smooth lump of rock used in perfume, incense, medicine and as food flavouring.

Curator Chris Hill confirmed to the Daily Mirror it was quite a find. "There are places in Europe that will buy it from you. They will age it, like a fine wine, and then test it for perfume," he said. Callum Roberts, professor of Marine Conservation at York University, told Radio 4's Today programme it was a "perfect stabiliser for perfumes".

As for Wilman, he has some advice for fellow dog walkers: "If your dog pays an interest in something, you pay an interest in it. Go and have a look and see what they were sniffing at, because you never know. There's gold out there on that beach. Floating gold."

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.

Read more:

One-Minute Read