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Eight-Year-Old Boy Hits Jackpot: Whale Vomit

Sperm whale vomit can pay for your college tuition for a year or buy you two new cars. Graphic by Justine Parks/The Minaret

Eight-year-old Charlie Naysmith found a 600 gram hardened chunk of sperm whale vomit on the beach at Hengistbury Head in Bournemouth, Great Britain. If that was the end of the story, I would say, “gross” and move on, but there was something special about that throw-up. There is a substance in the puke called ambergris which is used in perfumes to prolong their scent. According to Jane Reader of the Daily Echo, “[Charlie] and his family discovered it is worth between 10,000 and 40,000 British pounds.” That is $51, 259.05.

Let me put that into perspective. According to the University of Tampa’s Tuition and Costs page on UT’s website, the average cost for the 2012-2013 academic year for an undergraduate taking 12-18 credits is $34,338. You could pay off a year of college and have plenty left over to pimp out your dorm room, throw a wild party and then repair the damages to your room that occurred during that party. All that from the result of a whale with an upset tummy.

In a way, it is kind of depressing to know that some jobs will pay you less than what you can get from a whale’s stomach. Families drowning in debt will eventually realize this and quit their jobs. They will use whatever money they have left to purchase a ship and try their luck in the sea. Desperate for the precious vomit, ship after ship will stalk whales through every nook and cranny of the ocean, hoping the whale will surface long enough to shoot a load of ipecac into their mouth. Then all they will have to do is wait and collect the profit. I think I have just stumbled upon the Discovery Channel’s newest hit show: Puke Pursuers.

Of course, if this becomes profitable, pirates and gangs will want in on this too. The pirates will seek out ships rife with ambergris-filled puke and plunder to their hearts’ content. Even if the ships make it past the pirates, they will have to make it past the criminals hired by perfume companies. Why buy the ambergris from someone when the perfume companies can cut out the middleman and take all the profit? I smell an Emmy-winning drama. Someone get me the number for HBO.

If you get seasick easily and want to avoid the ocean, but still want make a profit, there are other animals you can call upon. According to William F. Wood, a member of Humboldt State University’s chemistry department, skunk musk, with the odor removed, also makes perfume scents stick. You can aid the perfume industry and not vomit from being seasick. You’ll just vomit from the noxious odor of skunk musk. According to the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley, skunk musk was also used to cure “asthma, whooping cough, and similar respiratory illnesses.” Yes, because nothing helps you breath more easily than inhaling skunk fumes.

If perfume is not your thing, you can try to make a profit from Kopi Luwak. It is a type of coffee that goes from anywhere between $100 and $600 a pound. Preparing the coffee bean is not too hard. All you have to do is fly to Southeast Asia, find an animal called the civet, have it eat some coffee cherries, wait for the civet to poop out the partially digested coffee beans that were in the cherry and collect your profit. According to Norimitsu Onishi’s article in The New York Times, the coffee made by these beans is “smooth, chocolaty and devoid of any bitter aftertaste.” It is like cleaning up after your dog, but more rewarding. How long do you think it will take until we have this at Einstein’s, Jazzman’s and the cafeteria?

The story of the whale vomit teaches us that you can stumble upon wealth and success as long as you remain curious, examine your surroundings and are very lucky. Also, human beings are willing to put up with some pretty disgusting animal substances in order to make a profit. I hope that I am never so strapped for cash that I spend my days handling a sperm whale’s regurgitated dinner.

John Koniszewski can be reached at

1 Comment on Eight-Year-Old Boy Hits Jackpot: Whale Vomit

  1. Jane Koniszewski // September 14, 2012 at 5:00 pm //

    You are a nut! Entertaining article! Love, Mom


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