Because of its oily nature, ambergris floats on water and can eventually wash up on shore. A man found the chunk pictured while walking on a beach in Wales in the United Kingdom.
There’s a surprising reason this whale goo was so valuable: Ambergris is used in some perfumes to add earthy notes and make their scents last longer, says Joel Mainland, an odor scientist at Monell Chemical Senses Center in Pennsylvania. Because ambergris is rare, many perfume companies use a synthetic, or artificial, version of the goop. “When you’re creating a scent, you often need to mix good smells with bad ones,” says Mainland. “Sometimes you need some fecal notes to really make the whole thing gel together.”