MAI KHAO, PHUKET: The most expensive excrement in the world has been washing up on a Phuket beach since last weekend: ambergris, or ‘floating gold’, as it is known.
Villagers living near Mai Khao Beach have been scrambling to collect the substance, which begins life as bile excreted by sperm whales and is extremely valuable.
Several hundred kilograms of it have already washed up and been gathered by local people hoping to make a fortune by selling it.
Suphot Jantarapornsin, a fisheries specialist at Phuket Marine Biological Center, confirmed that the substance was ambergris.
He said the quantity of ambergris washing up on the beach meant more than one sperm whale must be in the area.
“The lumps are fresh and quite large so we can guess they are swimming close to the island,” he said.
Ambergris has also been washing up on beaches in neighboring Phang Nga province recently, where there have been reports of lucky villagers selling it for 70,000 baht per kilogram.
After sperm whales vomit up ambergris, it solidifies and floats in the sea, occasionally washing up on beaches.
It has a sweet, alluring smell, which makes it useful in making perfume.
Rattanaporn Rattanaphat, who works as a beach masseuse, said she had collected 30 kilograms of ambergris and was still trying to find more.
“I feel like I’ve won the lottery,” she said. “I want to use the money to fix my roof and take my sick father to see a doctor.”
— Kitima Pornmongkhonwat
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