Fishermen Find Life-Changing Fortune In The Stomach Of Whale Carcass

by : Hannah Smith on : 01 Jun 2021 13:15
Fishermen Find Life-Changing Fortune In The Stomach Of Whale CarcassBBC

A group of Yemeni fishermen have discovered a million-dollar fortune in the unlikeliest of places, after finding a trove of ambergris in stomach of a whale carcass.

The thirty-five fishermen were sailing in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Seriah in southern Yemen when they came across the floating body of a sperm whale.


Upon cutting the carcass open, they discovered masses of a waxy substance like black sludge. To the untrained eye, it might seem like not much more than a disgusting mess, but these fishermen quickly realised they’d come across a hugely valuable collection of ambergris.

$1.5 million worth of ambergris discovered in whale carcass (BBC)BBC

Ambergris is a fluid formed in a whale’s digestive system. It’s not dissimilar to fecal matter – and apparently it smells about the same – but it just so happens that ambergris is a very rare and highly coveted substance.

‘As soon as we got close to it there was this strong smell, and we had the feeling this whale had something,’ one of the fishermen told BBC News.


The group brought the whale back to shore where they cut it open to see if their hunch was right. Inside, they discovered an estimated $1.5 million worth of the precious substance, a sum one of the sailors described as ‘an unimaginable price.’

‘We never expected this thing would give us such a huge amount,’ he said.

With 80% of Yemen living below the poverty line, and with the country engulfed in a devastating famine as a result of a years-long blockade and ongoing civil war, the million-dollar find has been truly life-changing for the fishermen’s community.

Sperm whales are the only species to produce ambergris (PA Images)PA Images

The group shared the profits equally, and while they’ve all been able to buy houses, cars and new boats, they’ve also made sure to donate some of the money to some of those most in need in their local community.

Whales have been hunted for centuries by sailors in search of ambergris to sell. The substance, which is mainly used in perfumes nowadays, was previously found in everything from medicines to incense, and is even thought to have been sold as an aphrodisiac.

It’s thought between only 1-5% of sperm whales actually produce ambergris, making the fishermen’s find all the more unique. The sale of ambergris is banned in many countries in line with other restrictions on whale hunting, but luckily for this group of sailors, they were able to cash in on their incredible find.

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Topics: News, Now, Whale


BBC News
  1. BBC News

    Yemen fishermen find $1.5m of ambergris in the belly of a whale