Valuable Vomit found on a beach in Hermanus
March 06, 2013 by dyertrust
On Thursday, 28th February 2013, the Dyer Island Conservation Trust got a call from Fred Kuys, a home owner in Voelklip Hermanus. I went out for a walk on Grotto Beach, with my wife Val and our visitors from the UK, this afternoon and we found something which we think might be whale vomit was Freds description of the afternoons events. The DICT deals with some really interesting calls from the public, but this topped them all
Val spotted something unusual on the beach, lying just on the high water mark. I tried to ID it but I have never seen anything like this before! said Fred, and ex Biology teacher.
What caught their attention straight away was the awful sickening smell of this unusual find. After some discussion, their visitors John Calvey (surgeon from North West England) and Joanna Ball (TV producer from London), remembered about a man who made a rare discovery of Ambergris, better known as whale vomit, whilst walking with his dog on Morecombe Bay Beach in Lancaster, England.
Despite the horrible smell the four decided that this find was worth picking up to see if they could find someone who could identify it.
Fred contacted his neighbor, Wendy Hoffmeyer, who put him in touch with the Dyer Island Conservation Trust.
The DICT, situated in Kleinbaai, 50km from Hermanus, was founded by Wilfred Chivell in 2005. The Trust specializes in marine related research and conservation in the Overstrand region. The DICT has a dedicated Biologist team, who assists not only with the research and conservation, but also works hands on with community development and awareness campaigns around their research. Wilfred Chivell is also the owner of two companies operating out of Kleinbaai. Dyer Island Cruises offers boat based whale watching and eco adventures, whilst Marine Dynamics offers shark cage diving excursions.
The Operations Manager for the Trust, Alouise Lynch, met up with Fred the next morning and when she looked (and smelled) the sample rather thought it to be whale feaces. Even so, she was interested enough to collect it and take it away for analisys.
The foursome shared a bottle of wine, and laughed, instead of valuable whale vomit, they had found whale poo!!! At least the natural historians of Hermanus were interested.
The next morning Fred got a call from Alouise, who in the meantime had presented the sample to one of the DICT Biologists, Michelle Wcisel. Michelle was very excited about this find, and believed this to indeed be ambergris, more commonly known as whale vomit. Looking at the pictures and the description of the pungency of this material, it seems to be Ambergris. This is a wonderful find. Says Mr. Mike Meyer from the Department of Environmental Affairs of South Africa.
There was an audible pause from Fred when Alouise shared this with him, then making an appointment to meet him again in the afternoon to return his valuable whale excreta.
Ambergris is produced in the digestive system of Sperm Whales, waxy in substance and can vary in form or colour. Sperm whales are believed to produce this substance in the intestinal columns to protect and ease the passage of sharp objects the whale might have consumed.
It is highly sought after for perfumery where synthetic has not been introduced. Fresh Ambergris smells like fecal matter, with a high animal undertone, whilst older ambergris has a very sweet musky scent, unpleasant to some.
The find in the UK was worth 100,000.
There is no telling whether or not this definitly is Ambergris, and whether or not this find will be worth any amount, the mere discovery of a substance like thison our coastline is of great value It has been left in the hands of Mr. Kuys to decide if he would like to send hi through for proper analysis, and if positive, what he would like to do with the find.