There are countless ways in which goddess luck, when it manifests itself, can surprise human beings. But, to kiss a bunch of fishermen of the south of Yemen, the shape assumed by luck was unbelievable. Like every morning, a few days ago the crew of 35 workmates was aboard the motorboat thanks to which they earn their living in a disastrous country, which has one of its main resources precisely in fishing.
Suddenly, while they were sailing in the waters of the Gulf of Aden, one of them received a cell phone call from a colleague: “Come here, there is a floating carcass of a sperm whale.”
The crew of the small fishing boat did not let themselves be begged, and set course on the indicated point. Approached the giant cetacean, the 35 fishermen were attacked by the terrible stench that came from the animal. “That stench made us suspect that he had something special inside,” one of them explained to the BBC, which yesterday published the incredible story. At that point they did not hesitate to hook it to the boat and bring it ashore. On the sand of the beach of the Middle Eastern country, once the animal was dissected, it became clear to the incredulous eyes of the very lucky fishermen that that sperm whale was, in reality, a floating gold mine.
In fact, the belly of the gigantic cetacean (the males can be up to 18 meters long and weigh up to 52 tons) revealed the treasure it had inside: a huge accumulation of ambergris, renamed by the sailors floating gold or treasure of the sea. “It was as if, suddenly, an incredible dream had come true,” continues the fisherman’s story. Ambergris used since ancient times as a medicine, incense and even as an aphrodisiac – currently sells on the market for around $ 50,000 a kilo. And the quantity found by the very lucky Yemeni fishermen it brought them about $ 1.5 million.
A very precious substance, therefore, but with a far from noble origin. The terrible stench (of excrement) that emanates is in fact easily explained: it derives from the regurgitation that is secreted by the sperm whale to protect the lining of its intestine from the beak of the squid, of which the sperm whale is greedy, and which can thus be digested. Collected in the best way by fishermen in plastic crates, it has the appearance and color of pitch.
And to think that its value is given by its use in the cosmetic industry, where it is used to make the fragrance of perfumes last for a long time. As one of the very lucky fishermen summed up: «The perfume wasn’t the best, but it made us a lot of money!». Its value is so high because it is estimated that only between 1% and 5% of sperm whales contain ambergris. Since the sperm whales are protected, the trade in the stinking and precious substance is prohibited, to prevent them from risking extinction.
In the skull of the sperm whale, on the other hand, there is spermaceti, a substance used as oil for watches, lubricant for photographic lenses and other high-precision instruments, and in various other applications. In a country where – according to the United Nations – 80% of the population is at risk of poverty, devastated by the civil war that began in 2014 which further impoverished it, the story of the 35 Yemeni fishermen has all the ingredients of a fairy tale.
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The proceeds from the sale of the treasure in the whale’s belly were divided equally among them, and they also managed to donate some to the poorest inhabitants of their village. “It was like an incredible prize, one of them concludes the story -. We are all poor, we never expected such wealth all at once ». The treasure in the belly of the sperm whale allowed the group of men to improve their standard of living. Who has remodeled the apartment, who bought a luxury car, who a new boat. But, in the end, they are all back aboard their twin-engine, aware that such a mass of ambergris in the intestines of a sperm whale represents a fortune that can happen at most once in a lifetime.