A man who collects valuable whale waste with a similar market price to gold claims he has amassed 45kg of the rare substance.
Duncan Payne, 61, from Southland in New Zealand has collected ambergris from beaches since 2018.
The market price of ambergris can be up to $45 a gram, meaning Mr Payne could make a small fortune selling his collection.
Collector Duncan Payne believes this substance (pictured) is ambergris which could be 170-year-old
Mr Payne told Daily Mail Australia he travels to the beach four or five times a month to look for ambergris, taking it home to dry out for a few months and to clean seaweed or coral from the rock.
‘I picked up this piece of white stuff that I thought was clay, but I thought no it’s not waxy and it doesn’t smell, I thought I’d break it open’, he told Stuff.
Mr Payne said he could identify the smell of the rock from his time spent with a family friend on Stewart Island, who kept ambergris in their home.
‘You could smell it when you walked in the room.’
The unique smell of the rare commodity has been sought after for use in perfumes and medicines for centuries.
Only 1% of the 350,000 sperm whales on earth produce Ambergris, making the substance extremely rare
Mr Payne has sent five grams of his ambergris to a perfumer in Australia who plans to use it to create a scent, but says the process can take up to two or three years.
He said he owed his substantial collection to days of extended southerly winds that pull the ambergris from the depths of the Southern Ocean and pushes it to shore.
‘The secret is in knowing what it is you’re picking up, most people around here think they’re picking up pumice’, he explained.
Mr Payne has been collecting ambergris since 2018
Ambergris can be described as a wax-like substance, made to protect the intestines of a sperm whale when they ingest hard substances like squid beaks.
The whale waste has to float in the ocean for decades before it hardens, only then does the substance become valuable.
Mr Payne believes some pieces of his collection could have been floating in the ocean for more than 200 years.
A buyer from Singapore paid $20,000 for 2 kilograms of Mr Payne’s ambergris, including return flights so the collector could hand deliver the rocks.
But after inspecting the ambergris the buyer doubted the legitimacy of the product, despite Mr Payne demonstrating with a lighter that the pumice, actually oxidised ambergris, exploded when it was lit.
Mr Payne has started his own online market after being blacklisted by the ambergris industry
Reporters from Stuff took Mr Payne’s ambergris to Otago Museum to be identified, with the samples later confirmed as sandstone and pumice.
Mr Payne said pumice and ambergris can be easily confused, and that pumice only came to New Zealand’s shores in cooler months during Winter.
The ambergris enthusiast has recently launched his own market on Facebook, after being blacklisted by the industry.
Mr Payne said he has been informed by friends and perfumers that he has been ‘run down globally’ in the industry.
‘It’s a journey I’m not about to give up, everyone has a right to pick something up off the beach and sell it, not just me, everybody.’
Mr Payne said he’s still on a learning curve when it comes to collecting ambergris.
‘I’m not a expert, I’m not a chemist, I’ve learnt to do as much as I need to know with what I’ve got, and how to treat it.’
WHAT IS AMBERGRIS?
Ambergris is hardened whale waste, a fatty substance that is light-weight with a faint waxy texture
Ambergris is an incredibly rare substance because only 1% of the 350,000 sperm whales on earth can produce it
The fatty substance protects the whales intestines while they ingest rough materials like the beaks of squids
Occasionally sperm whales will excrete thousands of pounds of waste
This waste then floats in the ocean for decades where it has to harden to become valuable
A few ounces of Ambergris can sell for a few thousand dollars, earning it the nickname ‘floating gold’
Source: The Week
Mr Payne visits the beach four to five times a month to look for ambergris, taking it home to dry out for a few months and to clean seaweed or coral from the rock