A 41-year-old woman from Terengganu recently made the news after she found the much sought-after whale vomit floating off the coast of Marang.
Aida Zurina Long said she was fishing at a jetty near the Malaysian Fisheries Department Authority when she spotted the object on the water.
She first thought it was a pile of rubbish, but her father, a fisherman alerted her that the substance could be waste vomit.
She then picked it up and when her father tried to burn the object, it melted and gave out a smell.
Aida said she never heard of whale vomit and was surprised to find out it was of high value and wanted to find out its authenticity and quality of the 5kg object.
Reports said the object had since been sent to Universiti Malaya to determine if the substance is truly ambergris (whale vomit).
If it really is, then there is a possibility Aida could become an overnight millionaire.
Ambergris is a rare find and can only be made in the digestive tract of sperm whales, which are endangered.
Sperm whales mainly eat squids and their bile ducts produce a compound called ambrein to ease the passage of the squids they consume.
The digestive product, once expelled floats in the ocean and over time, what is left behind is the solid, waxy substance.
Apparently, ambergris is much sought after by perfume makers as it allows scents to last longer and releases a rancid, foul smell that slowly turns sweet.
According to Bernama, University Malaya’s Centre of Research Field Service director Associate Professor Dr Hasrizal Shaari said in line with its high price, ambergris needs to achieve a specific purity to be considered of high value.
The sample they received will need to contain three active elements of different ratios in it, namely ambrein, epicoprosterol, and coprostanone.
“Without the three active components, the lumps do not have any value,” he said, adding that no Malaysian has yet to become rich after discovering ambergris in the country’s waters.
To date, the lab — the only one in Malaysia with expertise to verify and test ambergris — has conducted analyses for only 18 samples previously believed to be the substance.