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Welsh whale ‘vomit’ finder’s hopes dashed

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( photo) The website calls ambergris “a substance steeped in mystery for centuries.” The site buys and sells genuine “beach cast” ambergris “hand collected by dedicated beachcombers from the pristine coastline of New Zealand.”

Crain News Service report

ANGLESEY, Wales (Jan. 27, 2014) — He saw the blob and immediately pound signs began dancing in his eyes.

A substance thought to be a lump of rare, potentially valuable whale vomit has turned out to be...uh, nothing more than regurgitated rubber, according to a BBC report.

Andrew Hughes found what he hoped was ambergris—produced in sperm whales’ intestines—on Anglesey, north Wales.

He hoped it could be worth many thousands of pounds to the perfume industry, although the value of ambergris is disputed.

Dr. Vera Thoss, of Bangor University, Wales, conducted tests over two days and said it was “basically a lump of rubber.”

Although unable to say exactly what the substance was, she said she believed it was probably a latex or runny rubber, which showed characteristics of being burned—possibly on a ship that caught fire.

Mr. Hughes found the substance while looking for fishing bait with a friend at Porth Dafarch, near Trearddur Bay earlier this month, the BBC story said.

But after discovering the find was worthless, he said he could see the funny side of it.

“We weren’t getting our hopes too high anyway because we’re down to earth,” he said.

Internet reports suggested that if the substance proved to be ambergris it could be worth tens of thousands of U.S. dollars to the perfume industry.

However, Steve Pearce, a chartered biochemist and former president of both the British Society of Flavourists and British Society of Cosmetic Scientists, told the BBC there are many alternatives to the once-prized ambergris.

“There may be one or two artisan perfumers who would pay some money for it—a few tens of pounds,” he added. “I’ve not heard of people buying it.”

This report appeared on the website of European Rubber Journal, a UK-based sister publication of Tire Business.

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