It was in the least expected place. In the entrails of a dead sperm whale on a beach on La Palma, an island in the archipelago of the Canary Islands. How much could the valuable stone inside a sperm whale be sold for? Half a million dollars, no less.
It is a 9-kilogram gut formation of what is known as “ambergris.” Sadly for the animal, this intestinal stone was the cause of its death. The cetacean was 13 meters long and weighed about 20 tons. It washed up on the beach of Nogales, La Palma, in mid-May.
Cause of death
This was revealed by researchers from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. What triggered the animal’s death was that stone in the colon that caused an obstruction of the intestine. This type of “stones” are formed by the food consumed by sperm whales, such as squid beaks, which are very hard. They can be eliminated through feces or vomited. But in some cases they end up being a complication for the animals.
“It’s the same as in the kidney, when a nucleus is formed that starts to calcify. It might not come out right because of failures of the intestine. It simply gets trapped and starts to form a stone,” explained Antonio Fernández. He is a professor at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, to the RTVC channel.
In the perfume industry, the so-called “ambergris” is highly valued for its properties. Only 1% to 5% of sperm whales produce it, which increases its value. It was formerly used in religious ceremonies or as an aphrodisiac in the Middle East. Nowadays this substance is mostly used in the perfume industry.
The valuable stone inside a sperm whale is a real treasure. “Ambergris has a very particular aroma,” says Dom Devetta, founder of the British perfume company Shay & Blue. “Its scent is intense, sweet, animalic. It adds a layer within the fragrance of passion, sensuality, sexuality, and that’s a difficult thing to achieve,” he noted at the time.
“It also helps the perfume linger longer on the skin, although like any other scent, it’s not for everyone,” the fragrance expert added.