He thought that there was something more than met the eye with the strange “rock” he had found on the beach. He decided to call for help. He stood feebly outside of his own house as it was barricaded and quarantined.
A man in a protective suit walked out and reported what he had found just a few minutes after. However, all he managed to do was to stand there with his jaw left hanging open. It was indeed alarming what he could have seen.
Taking A Walk
This all began way back in the spring of 2016. A husband and his wife walked along the Middleton Sands. Steven and Viola Whitten deeply enjoyed the stretch of the beach in Lancashire, England. The beach had a few amazing views of the Irish Sea and it was just a few meters away from where they lived. They resided in the village of Overton.
Middleton Sands was always populated with hikers and dog owners, but the couple found their secret place in a less popular area. They did not really enjoy crowds, so they felt relaxed when there were fewer people around.
Something Was Off
They were appreciating the view until Steven noticed a weird, acrid smell the filled the air. They did not know back then that they had stumbled upon an incident that would incredibly change their lives.
The scent was like that of a rotting fish and it was the first time they smelled something like that. But even though the pungent smell turned them off, they were also curious about what it was and where it was coming from. As they walked, they noted that there was a greyish lump that was smaller in size than a rugby ball.
Steven and Viola followed the trail of the pungent smell until they found the source. They discovered a strange and stinking rock that was the size of a football. The exterior was indeed smooth because of being pummeled by the waves for years. They were curious about what they had found.
Steven cautiously reached out to touch the rock. He was familiar with finding weird stuff near the beach especially the one near their house. However, he had never heard of anything like the rock they had found. This aroused his curiosity.
The smell was incredibly difficult to describe as he had never experienced anything like that before. The scent was terrible but was also very distinct. He said, “It was like a cross between squid and farmyard manure.”
Steven and Viola dreamed of getting rich and a thought came to them. Maybe this was a treasure and the day they would strike gold to become rich was not that far off. They started their day like the usual but made a hundred and eighty-degree turn after they saw the rock,
The Next Step
They started to make plans on what to do with the rock they discovered. They pondered whether they should leave it because of its pungent odor or whether they should take the rock with them. It was not an easy decision to make. So, what exactly did they choose to do?
Taking A Chance
Steven and Viola were not about to give up. They always dreamed of becoming rich and maybe this was their chance of a lifetime to find something of value. Therefore, the couple decided to risk it and they took their chances. They hoped that the rock was worth it and that they could finally buy a static caravan.
Taking It Home
Steven carefully picked up the rock and covered it with Viola’s scarf. He wanted to make sure that it was secured. He also did not want anyone to see what they had wrapped in his wife’s scarf. He could not wait to check online whether his guess was right.
Once the couple got home, Steven took his fisherman’s scale to weigh the rock they had found. It weighed 3.5 pounds which thrilled Steven and his wife. He knew that he would need to ask for a professional’s help if he wanted to get to the bottom of this.
His first idea was to post on Facebook. He turned to one of the community groups on the social site and posted a picture of the rock. Eventually, it was flooded with comments that he had to take his time to read each of them.
Could It Be A Meteor?
Many people responded to the post and most of them had very implausible ideas. There was a group that said that it might be a piece of volcanic rock that came from the ocean. There were even some who speculated that it was a meteor.
The Possibilities Were Endless
An amateur meteorologist excitedly suggested for Steven to try the magnet test just to make sure that the rock he found was a meteor. The meteorologist was convinced that he was correct but apparently, he was far off the mark.
Steven described what the rock looked like during an interview and said, “It feels like a rock-hard rubber ball, its texture is like wax, like a candle. When you touch it, you get wax sticking to your fingers.”
Panic Levels High
The rock started to seem strange and it was very odd why this rock would cause such a stir in the Whitten house. Once Steven placed the object against a magnet, he finally started to panic. And we were also getting anxious, too.
Steven was hesitating whether he should continue. He and his wife had been experimenting on an unknown rock that they had randomly found by the beach. As they did not know what it was, it might be dangerous and might somehow harm them. They had to tread carefully.
What Is The Magnet Test?
The magnet test was one of the surefire ways of testing if something was an authentic gold. Fake gold would always be attracted to magnets. Using a magnet allowed us to find out the actual material they had discovered.
Because of the magnet test, Steven was able to confirm that the rock did not have any iron. This only meant one thing. The rock was not a meteorite. Steven still had no idea what could be causing the object’s foul smell.
Things Were Picking Up
Steven finally admitted that he no longer had any idea what the rock could be. It could be dangerous for all he knew. He finally made one quick call, which was followed by men in protective suits arriving at his house.
Steven had no clear idea of what he could be dealing with. Even though many people online offered suggestions, this was already getting out of hand. He decided to ask the help of experts, which he finally put into action. But what happened next was shocking.
Two men arrived at the house and had it cordoned as soon as possible. Once they had barricaded the house, they went inside in order to dispose of the rock safely while they gave instructions to Steven and Viola Whitten. The couple waited patiently.
Getting To The Bottom Of It
The object was placed inside a box on top of their dining room table. After careful inspection, the men in protective gear came back outside and gave the anxious couple the news. What they said completely shocked the two.
At A Loss
Steven held his wife Viola close to him while they patiently waiting. The two tried to understand the mystery about the rock. He was starting to prepare for the worst. The rock seemed so strange and the facial expressions of the officials only made things worse.
Steven heaved a sigh of relief once the men confirmed that the rock was not hazardous. It was not a piece of waste that was randomly tossed on the beach. And yet, once the officials told them what the rock was, he was surprised. The officials told him that even though it was rare, there were times when hunks of ambergris could wash up on the shore. But what is ambergris?
Ambergris had been highly coveted for hundreds of years and was infamous because of its terrible smell which was “like a cross between squid and farmyard manure.” However, the odor would get sweeter as time passed by. This substance had been used for making expensive perfumes for hundreds of years. There were some historians who claimed that ambergris was edible.
Ambergris was a by-product of the whales. Whales produce these in their bile ducts and eventually would be excreted. This might sound incredibly nasty, but it was so rare that some people would be willing to pay a fortune for it. Steven and Viola just happened to pass by one as they went for a walk along the beach. However, there was a catch to this.
The ambergris was only produced by one species of whale and it was the sperm whale. They could be found in oceans all over the world which included Britain’s coastal waters. The sperm whale could grow to around 67 feet long and could weigh over 63 tons. And while the population for sperm whale had increased, they weren’t always so prolific.
Sperm whales had been hunted because of their blubber. The blubber of the sperm whales was used to make anything from candles, machine oil, pencils, and even soap. Ambergris was also harvested because of its rarity and scent. Because of this, almost a million whales were killed during the 19th and 20th centuries. During the 1980s, there was a ban on whaling which also included ambergris.
One more reason why ambergris was rare could be because the process, in order to produce one, was very slow and might take over the years. In addition to that, not all sperm whales had the ability to produce ambergris. According to experts, only around 1% of the sperm whales could produce the substance. And weirdly enough, most of this was found in the Atlantic Ocean.
Most countries had decided to outlaw the trade of ambergris and one of these countries was the United States. It was illegal to trade ambergris in America. Fortunately for Steven and Viola, UK considered ambergris to be a waste product. They started to wonder how much it was worth.
Steven and Viola were surprised to learn that another lump of ambergris was found near the beach where they got theirs. It was discovered by a man in Morecambe. The one the other guy got managed to sell for $155,000. So how much could the couple get for their ambergris?
Loads Of Cash
The ambergris that was discovered in Morecambe weighed around six pounds. It was twice the size of what the Whittens found. However, this could mean that their piece could sell for around $65,000. That’s not a bad amount thinking that it was just a whale by-product. So, what did the couple do with their ambergris?
Following Their Dreams
People wondered whether the couple used their discovery to pay off debt or mortgage. Some even speculated that the two might have decided to retire early. In one perfect example of British restraint, Steven said in his interview with the Daily Mirror, “If it is worth a lot of money, it will go a long way towards buying us a static caravan. It would be a dream come true.”