Story at a glance

  • A group of Yemeni fishermen's lives were changed when they discovered a rare substance worth $1.5 million in the carcass of a sperm whale in the Gulf of Aden.
  • The 35-member team was alerted to the carcass floating in the gulf, and upon dragging it to the shore, they discovered an expensive lump of ambergris — whale "vomit" that is used to preserve the odor of perfume.
  • "The smell wasn’t very nice – but lots of money," one of the men told the BBC.

A group of Yemeni fishermen's lives were changed when they discovered $1.5 million worth of a rare substance in the carcass of a sperm whale in the Gulf of Aden. 

The 35-member team found the carcass floating in the gulf and, upon dragging it to the shore, discovered an expensive lump of ambergris, or whale "vomit," used to preserve the odor of perfume. 


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“As soon as we got close to it there was this strong smell and we had the feeling that this whale had something,” one of the men told the BBC.

“We decided to hook the whale in, take it to shore and cut into it to see what was inside its belly, and yes, it was ambergris. The smell wasn’t very nice – but lots of money,” the unnamed man added.


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The crew split the haul among themselves and distributed some of their newly acquired wealth among their village, according to the outlet. It was an “unimaginable price,” one of the men told the BBC. Another added that the men never expected the carcass to contain such a “huge amount.” BBC reports that only 1 to 5 percent of sperm whales contain ambergris, which is used to protect their intestines from harmful substances.

Some used the money to purchase cars and boats, while others spent the profits on new homes and weddings. But despite the life-altering find, the men said they still go out everyday to do their jobs. One of the men told the outlet that the work is in his blood. 


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Published on Jun 02, 2021