The moment he started suspecting that the strange “rock” he found on the beach might be something else, he called for help. Not long after that, he was hopelessly standing outside his home, watching it being closed off and quarantined.
A few minutes later, a man covered in protective gear approached him and reported what he had found. Yet all he could do was stand there with his mouth wide open while he tried to process what he heard.
Going For A Walk
It was the Spring of 2016 when Steven Whitten and his wife, Viola, were taking a stroll along the Middleton Sands. The spot was their favorite part of the Lancashire beach.
The area offered breathtaking views of the Irish Sea, and the best part was that it wasn’t very far from their home in Overton.
Less Populated Areas
Middelton Sands was very popular among hikers and dog owners. But Steven and Viola preferred to stroll along the less populated parts of the beach.
While they were admiring the view, Steven picked up on a strange smell that was floating in the air. They had no idea that they were about to come across something that would alter the course of their lives.
A Weird-Looking Rock
The couple followed the strange smell to the source that was emitting it. Lying on the beach where they ended up was a strange rock that was releasing an odor. It was approximately the size of a football and had become smooth because of the years it spent being tossed around by waves.
The rock was also waxy to the touch, which made them wonder. What on earth did they find?
Was It A Rare Find?
Steven tentatively reached out and touched the rock. On many occasions, he read about people finding strange things on this stretch of the beach, but the thing in front of him was unlike anything he’d ever seen or heard of.
His curiosity was piqued, so he picked up the rock and wrapped his wife’s scarf around it. Steve was very excited and couldn’t wait to get online to ask the netizens what they thought of his find.
Once Steven and Viola got home, Steven used a fisherman’s scale to weigh the strange rock. The rock weighed in at a whopping 3.5 pounds, exiting Steven and his wife even more.
Steven then posted a picture of the rock on a Facebook community group, hoping someone could help him solve the mystery. Not long after that, his post was flooding with comments from people who had their own ideas about what it might’ve been.
Could It Be A Meteor?
Some of the commenters suggested that it might’ve been a piece of volcanic rock that was formed in the depths of the ocean. Others thought it might’ve been a meteor.
There was even an amateur meteorologist who suggested that Steven try to do a “magnet test” on the object to see if it contained any metals. However, at the end of the day, all of them were proven wrong.
It Was Still Unidentified
In a later interview, Steven explained that “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.”
But that wasn’t the only thing about the strange “rock” that caused a stir within the Whitten household. Steven took the meteorologist’s advice and did a “magnet test.” That was when he and his wife really started to panic.
Time To Make A Phone Call
The test Steven performed on the “rock” proved that it contained no iron, meaning it wasn’t a meteorite. And none of the commentators managed to explain why the “rock” had a foul odor either.
Steven finally admitted that he had no clue what the rock was; to make matters worse, he didn’t know if it was harmful to him and his family. So he decided to make a phone call, and a little while later, men wearing protective suits showed up at his doorstep.
The two officials cordoned off the house as soon as they arrived. Afterward, they went inside to get rid of the substance the safest way possible. Steven and his wife stood outside and told the officials where they could find the “rock,” which was in a box that was placed on the dining room table.
Steven and his wife were terrified when the officials stepped out after a few minutes. They would get the update they’d been waiting for, and they had no idea what to expect.
Steven was relieved when the officials told him that he hadn’t picked up a hazardous piece of waste on the beach, but when they told him what the “rock” really was, his eyes widened.
They said that, while extremely rare, hunks of ambergris do wash up on the shore from time to time. But what is ambergris?
As it turns out, ambergris has been a highly coveted substance for centuries. It is known for its foul smell — “like a cross between squid and farmyard manure” — but its odor sweetens over time.
In fact, ambergris has been used in expensive perfumes for hundreds of years. Some historians believe that it may even be edible.
Ambergris is actually a whale by-product. It is produced in the bile ducts of whales and then excreted. While this sounds revolting, it is so rarely found in nature that it’s worth a fortune to the right buyer.
Steven and Viola had just stumbled upon it on a beach walk! They couldn’t believe their luck! But, of course, there was a catch…
Ambergris is only produced by one species of whale, the sperm whale. Sperm whales are found in oceans all around the world, including Britain’s coastal waters. Individuals can grow to a length of 67 feet, and their weights have been recorded at over 63 tons.
While sperm whale populations have increased, these majestic creatures were not always so prolific.
In the past, sperm whales were commonly hunted for their blubber, which was used to make everything from candles and soap to machine oil and pencils. Indeed, ambergris was also harvested for its unique scent.
Sadly, as many as one million whales were killed during the 19th and 20th centuries. Then, in the 1980s, a ban on whaling was passed — which included ambergris.
Adding to ambergris’ mystique and rarity is the fact that it is only created very slowly — over years. It is also believed that not all sperm whales produce it.
Experts say that only around one percent of the sperm whale population will produce the coveted substance. And oddly enough, it is mostly found in the Atlantic ocean.
The trade of ambergris has been outlawed in most countries, including the United States. In America. The illegality of trading ambergris forms a part of a wider ban on the hunting and exploitation of whales.
But luckily for Steven, in the United Kingdom, ambergris is considered a waste product. So, just how much was it worth?
Well, the Whittens were surprised to learn that another lump of ambergris had been found on the beach by a man in Morecambe, which wasn’t far from where Steven and Viola had found theirs. And that piece had fetched a staggering $155,000!
So, how much would the Whittens get for their piece of “floating gold?”
A Ton Of Cash
The piece of ambergris that had been found in Morecambe weighed around six pounds — it was twice as large as the Whitten’s piece. Still, that meant that the ambergris could fetch around $65,000. That’s a staggering amount of money for a piece of whale by-product!
So, what do Steven and Viola intend to do with their windfall?
Following Their Dreams
Would they settle their debt or pay off their mortgage? Or perhaps go into early retirement?
Well, in a perfect example of “British restraint,” Steven humbly told 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.”
Washing Up On Shore
There are quite a lot of things that wash up on beaches, especially after storms. Some of those discoveries are gruesome, others are shocking, and some are just worth a good laugh.
But unfortunately, most of those finds, unlike Steven’s, aren’t worth anything. Sure, people take pictures of them and have stories to tell, but that’s about it.
The most common things that wash up on beaches, especially after storms, are the carcasses of sea life. It could be a whale or sometimes even a dolphin. But such things aren’t worth any money.
At most, it’s the cost of getting rid of them that leaves the biggest impact.
Some others are just amazing sights, like the giant lego that washed up on a beach or the shipping container full of rubber ducks that fell overboard and caused thousands of yellow floaties to spread across the world.
At least the rubber ducks helped us get more insight into the ocean currents but other than that, it was just an amusing sight.
What Lies Beneath
But what about the discoveries that never made it to the shore? The ones that remain hidden beneath the surface for hundreds of years, waiting to be discovered?
Beneath the blue depths of the oceans we all know and love, there’s a whole world’s worth of discoveries waiting for someone to unearth them.
The Florida Keys
A few of these discoveries are hidden in the waters of the Florida Keys. And they’re not as deep as you might think they are. Of course, there are some that need giant expeditions with huge ships and small submarines or thousands of dollars worth of equipment.
But there are some that can be found with nothing more than some diving gear.
Beneath the waters of the Keys, there are a few shipwrecks that were discovered, but it’s a set of six that took the world by storm in 2016. These six ships were thought to have belonged to the French when they were initially discovered.
But the theory changed later on.
Where Did They Come From?
The company that discovered the wrecks thought the ships belonged to the French since some of the cannons they found at the sight were French. But after doing some research, they changed their minds.
Considering that one of the French colonies was raided by the Spanish at the time, the company concluded that the ships must’ve been Spanish.
Spanish Armada Ships
It is believed that the ships were part of the Spanish Armada and that the cannons were aboard because they had taken them after the raid. GME also believes that the ships they found were heading for Havana, Cuba.
If that was the case, how on earth did they end up sinking in the Florida Keys?
A Heavy Storm
Apparently, there was a massive storm on the night the ships set sail. The majority of the fleet made it past the Keys before the storm hit, but the ones who left later were caught in the midst of the storm and didn’t manage to make it out.
They’ve been there since the 16th century!
That is until GME came along in 2015. It was late September when the company sent some divers out to survey the area off the coast of Cape Canaveral. Given that they had permits to search the seven areas off the coast, they set out.
And during a dive one day, one of the divers stumbled upon the shipwreck.
What Was Found Within?
At first, the diver found nothing more than debris from the rockets NASA launched in the area over the years. But then they dug a bit and ended up finding 19 cannons, 12 anchors, and ammunition from the ships.
They also found a large number of French Artifacts aboard the ships.
Lots Of Gold Coins
But GME wasn’t the only ones to discover Spanish ships or treasures in the waters of Florida. Between 2010 and 2013, divers from Blanchard and Co. made a shocking discovery off the coast of Vero Beach.
They found 11 Spanish ships that had sank due to a hurricane in 1715. Aboard those ships were a large number of gold coins.
The firm began marketing the three-hundred-year-old gold coins, of which 295 were found. It is said that the combined value of the coins is more than one million dollars. And surprisingly, the discovery was made beneath only 6 feet of water.
Which leads us to wonder, what else is out there? And is it worth going to look for these treasures?
Was It Worth It?
Such finds carry immense value, but in recent times the discoverers don’t always get to enjoy the fruits of their labors. There are laws stating that treasure hunters will only be offered a finders fee.
But that doesn’t really make it worth it for people who invest millions of dollars to seek out such treasures. That is something GME learned the hard way.
Matter Of Debate
Their case ended up in court, and a judge ruled that they had no right to the treasure they discovered, which was worth millions of dollars. The judge stated that the treasure belonged to France and that they would have the final say in what happened to the artifacts.
But GME isn’t just going to give up their loot so easily. They sued the state for damages and are planning on appealing the court’s decision.
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.