"My dream came true. I have been waiting for such a moment for the past 20 years when I started fishing with my father," Al Sinani told local media, according to Gulf News.
Wondering how finding horribly smelly intestinal excrement from a whale could possibly be a dream come true? Despite having a smell that's often described as being somewhere between faecal and more charitably "earthy", the clump of bio waste is actually worth a fortune for its uses in – of all places – the perfume industry. Popularly called "whale vomit", or more properly ambergris, the material originates in the digestive tract of sperm whales when a foreign object, often an undigested squid beak, irritates the intestines. The ambergris coats the irritant and is eventually expelled from the whale's body.
عثر الصيادون خالد و راشد سلطان السناني وزميلهم راشد السناني من قريات على ما يعادل 60 كجم من عنبر الحوت في عرض البحر أثناء قيامهم بالصيد. pic.twitter.com/mAYXgANPVE— شبكة الزاجل العمانية (@zajel_oman) November 1, 2016
Odours and unappealing origins aside, the wax-like substance has the ability to help affix scents to human skin, which is understandably a valuable trait to have in a perfume. It also has what perfume historian and archivist James Craven once described in an interview with The Telegraph as "tenacious depth, richness, opulence, smoothness, ambiguity, and an unsettling 'do I love it, or hate it?’ quality." Together, these traits make for a commodity that, despite its unorthodox origins, has been highly prized by perfumers.
Although the substance is illegal in United States and Australian markets, Europe has no restrictions on ambergris, where it can fetch thousands of euros per ounce at auction houses. At these rates, even a modest amount of the stuff can make its finder a very healthy profit. In our coverage of another find off the coast of Wales, just over one kilogram (2.2 pounds) fetched around £7,000 (approximately $8,700 USD).
With over sixty times that amount in his possession, Al Sinai is set to become rather rich. He's already received offers of 10,000 Omani rials (approximately $26,000 USD) per kilogram from interested parties in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and he believes he can ultimately get 18,000 Omani rials (approximately $47,000 USD) per kilogram.
Not everyone has been as lucky as Al Sinai. Oftentimes, what appears to be ambergris turns out to be nothing more than a particularly smelly rock or other ocean detritus. But when a lucky beachgoer does end up with the highly prized whale vomit, it can completely change lives.
Al Sinai, for his part, plans on taking the opportunity to walk away from the fishing industry and start anew in real estate.