As the recent Good News Network byline states: “The poorest country in the Middle East just got a bit richer” thanks to one deceased whale.
Here is one feel-good story for the day, where nature’s bounty provides for humanity even after death. And don’t worry, there is absolutely no abhorrent whale fishing present in this tale.
Instead, a dead sperm whale became caught on a group of fishing vessels 26 kilometers off the Aden, Yemen coast. Aboard were 35 fishermen who got the surprise of a lifetime upon examining the carcass. Within the whale’s body, the men found a whopping 280-pound “lump” of ambergris.
To seamen, ambergris is known as “floating gold.” Why? Because it’s nearly worth it’s weight.
The sperm-whale-born substance has long been used for everything from fragrances to liquor flavoring and even a stabilizing agent in modern times. And for their 280-lb. find, the 35 fishermen would receive an unbelievable $1.5 million from an Emirati businessman.
“From one moment to another, our lives changed,” says Abdulhakeem, one of the “lucky 35,” to local AFP. “There are those who bought boats, others built or fixed their houses. I built my house; I built my future,” he continues.
Abdulhakeem then cites an old Yemeni phrase, saying that “For most men the sea and its bounty are better neighbors even than a king.”
“We are simple people: fishermen looking for our catch every day,” adds his colleague, Salim Sharf. “If you found your catch for the day you thank God. Suddenly, the Most Merciful gave us this.“
Fantastically, the “lucky 35” are paying it forward, too. They’re sharing the fortune split evenly amongst themselves, sure. The rest, however, will go to help their local community: the fishing port city of Aden.
Unique Substance Found Only in Sperm Whales is one of Humanity’s Oldest Fortunes
We now know that ambergris is a substance from within sperm whales. But what, exactly, is this “floating gold”?
Fascinatingly, ambergris is only found in sperm whales. The species produces it inside their intestines. There, ambergris protects their intestinal lining from the sharp beaks of squid. Squid make up for the majority of a sperm whale’s diet, so their “floating gold” is of the utmost importance for survival.
It’s a solid, waxy, and flammable substance that the whale’s produce in a greyish-to-blackish color. As it ages, it develops a pleasant earthy, almost sweet scent. This has led to its use in perfumes, incense, and other fragrances for millennia. The substance is also a key ingredient in many historical recipes across the Asian and European continents. And we continue to use ambergris to this day.
What a catch! For more on this remarkable find, watch BBC News’ coverage below:
A group of fishermen in Yemen came across a sperm whale carcass floating in the Gulf of Aden, netting them the life-changing sum of $1.5 million.BBC News