A group of fishermen from the war-ravaged nation of Yemen have seen their fortunes radically reversed after stumbling upon a rare treasure in the belly of a sperm whale carcass.
The 35 fishermen had been living in poverty before they discovered the floating whale carcass at sea, which turned out to contain an abundance of ambergris worth over $1.5 million, reports the BBC.
Ambergris is a waxy substance that resembles a rock and is often referred to as “whale vomit.” The substance, which is produced deep in the intestines of the marine mammal, is a byproduct of their eating cephalopods such as squid and cuttlefish. The substance is sometimes found floating in the ocean or washed up on beaches after it is believed to have been vomited out by the whales.
Ambergris has been coveted by humans for a long time for its perceived medicinal and aphrodisiac qualities. It has also been used in the manufacturing of expensive perfumes.
“If you find whale ambergris it’s a treasure,” one of the fishermen said in the BBC News video.
The fishermen’s curiosity was piqued when one of them notified them of the whale and said that it may contain the rare treasure in its bowls.
“As soon as we got close to it, there was this strong smell, and we had the feeling that this whale had something,” the fisherman said. “We decided to hook the whale in, take it to the shore and to cut into it to see what was inside its belly. And yes, it was ambergris. The smell wasn’t very nice but [it is worth] lots of money.”
“It’s like an unbelievable dream. Wonderful feelings I can’t describe,” he added.
Since 2014, the people of Yemen have been on the receiving end of devastating offensives by a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition in a campaign that has seen tens of thousands of people killed and Yemen pushed to the brink of famine. In October, the United Nations estimated that some 80 percent of the population – over 24 million people – required aid and protection.
However, the fishermen and their families can now lift themselves from poverty after selling the ambergris for $1.5 million and dividing the profits among themselves equally.
The men are now using their funds to assist the people who helped them as well as fellow needy villagers.
The men also have purchased homes, cars, and boats and plan to continue fishing.
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