Finding treasure isn’t always like how it’s portrayed in the movies. Sure, there’s plenty of loot still buried under the sea, but it doesn’t always come in the form of a big wooden chest stuffed with gold coins—and there’s hardly ever an “X” marking the spot!

When Gary and Angela Williams of Overton, Lancashire stumbled upon a stinky, grayish lump on Middleton Sands beach near Morecambe Bay in England, they were intrigued. Most people wouldn’t think twice about it, let alone want to go near it. But something told Gary and Angela that it was something special…

As they got closer, however, they were dumbfounded. The story only got even crazier when they learned what they’d discovered!

Gary and Angela Williams of Overton, Lancashire in England were on a stroll along the Middleton Sands beach near Morecambe Bay when they spotted something rather odd in the surf.


It looked like a dinosaur egg. The couple wasn’t totally sure, but something told them they just had to investigate further. It was a good thing they followed their intuition, too, because the object they found was worth a fortune! But what the heck was it?

It turned out that this odd substance was called ambergris. It might not have seemed like it would be worth anything—after all, it was pretty gross—but it really was valuable. See, ambergris is produced in the bile ducts of a whale’s intestine, which is then usually passed in the whale’s fecal matter.


It has a waxy feel that sticks to you if you touch it, and it has an extremely foul smell that Gary described thusly: “like a cross between squid and farmyard manure.” It certainly sounds lovely, right?


However, this smelly, sticky, all-around-disgusting three-and-a-half-pound lump of whale refuse was estimated to be worth over $70,000! Talk about finding treasure! Who would have thought that whale waste would be worth so much?

3-couple-finds-ambergrisPeter Kaminski/Flickr

But just why was it so pricey? Well, ambergris develops a sweeter smell over time and has been used in very fine and expensive perfumes for centuries. It may even be edible! Supposedly, a serving of eggs and ambergris was a favorite dish of King Charles II.

4-couple-finds-ambergrisJohn Michael Wright

It should be noted that the trade of ambergris is illegal in some countries, including the United States, as it’s part of a wider ban on the hunting and exploitation of whales, a very serious issue.

5-couple-finds-ambergrisStahlkocher/Wikimedia Commons

In other countries, like the United Kingdom, it’s considered a waste product, which actually makes sense since it is whale waste after all! Still, it’s incredibly rare to find, so ambergris lying on the beach is a pretty big deal.


Ambergris can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and its appearance is mostly based on how long it’s been around. The one this man found, pictured below, had actually hardened to resemble a large rock. It was also yellowed.


Some ambergris can be so old that it truly does harden into rocks. This one might as well be an enormous boulder that you would find on a particularly rocky beach. Or perhaps it’s a giant, gold gemstone. Instead, it’s ambergris!

Notes: 150 gram piece, Contact: David Liittschwager Natural History Photography 120 Parnassus Avenue #1 San Francisco, CA 94117 cell: 415 531 6882 email: Ambergris provided by: Mandy Aftel Aftelier Perfumes 510-841-2111

Not only does it come in different sizes, but different colors can indicate just how long it took to develop or how long it spent in the ocean. Most commonly, people discover it when it’s somewhere in this middle stage below. It makes you wonder how much ambergris in the other stages would be valued…


Since Gary and Angela didn’t acquire the ambergris through egregious means, they might be in for big payout. Talk about found treasure!

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