A group of fisherman from Yemen made the discovery of a lifetime when they found the carcass of a sperm whale floating on the Gulf of Aden containing, in its belly, a fortune worth around $1.5 million.
A smelly but valuable substance
The aquatic mammal in question was found lifeless and holding up to $1.5 million worth of ambergris—a highly coveted and rare substance used in the perfume industry. The valuable matter is exclusively found inside the digestive system of sperm whales and has a very distinct and pungent smell when it is freshly produced by the animal.
As it ages however, it acquires a sweet, and earthy scent that has become highly valued by perfume makers for its fixative properties allowing scents to last much longer and age better with time. Earlier literature reported that ambergris was used in medicine, as incense and even as an aphrodisiac. One fisherman remembers being told that 'if you find whale ambergris, you know you've found a treasure. He explains that:
One of the fisherman from Seriah called us in the morning and he said 'there's a whale and it may contain ambergris.' As soon as we got close to it there was this strong smell. The smell wasn't very nice but there was lots of money!
Enough money for the entire community
He later explained how this much amount of money helped them and their entire community turn their lives around as Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world, claiming money was donated to the homes of the less fortunate.
A country torn by years of fighting a civil war, the UN reports that about 80% of the population are vulnerable to hunger, so for these fishermen this discovery literally changed the rest of their lives forever.