An Irvine man is keeping his fingers crossed that he's found valuable ambergis - waste product from a sperm whale - on the local beach.

Patrick Williamson made the discovery as he walked his dog at Irvine Beach Park at the weekend.

He revealed: "I found it just 100 yards from the steps to the beach, while I was walking the dog. It just dropped its ball and went over to it right away."

Amergris is often described as "floating gold". According to reports, this it could be worth £50,000 for a 1.57kg lump.

The waxy whale waste have become a sought-after ingredient in perfumes, but the unusual appearance means people often confuse everything from fat to sewage to palm oil as being “floating gold” when it is, in fact, just pungent garbage.

Irvine Times: A sperm whaleA sperm whale (Image: Todd Cravens/Unsplash)

Tests can be carried out to confirm if a find is ambergris. One test  is to poke it with a hot needle and a liquid should ooze out. But many waxy objects melt when exposed to heat.

Patrick said: "My father tested it for me with a hot needle and the edge of a knife. It was going on fire and spitting. We'll have to get it officially tested."

Dogs are often sensitive to ambergris and run towards it, thanks to a smell described as "between squid and farmyard manure".

According to Bangor University: "Only sperm whales make the compound responsible for ambergris’ allure: ambrein.

"Squid is the main diet of sperm whales but as the beaks can’t be digested, they need to be passed out without causing injury. They do this by coating them with ambrein.

"Ambergris starts as a mixture of squid beaks, ambrein and another digestive product called epicoprostanol.

"Once expelled – usually as faecal matter but also through vomiting, hence the name – ambergris floats in the ocean, turning from a “lump of poo” that smells of faeces into floating gold that has incorporated the varied smells of the sea.

Irvine Times: Genuine ambergrisGenuine ambergris (Image: Contributed)

"Visually this means ambergris starts more as a black lump and slowly bleaches.

"This ageing process is suspected to have two chemical effects: the reduction in the scent of faeces, which is more water-soluble and gradualy lost, and the incorporation of the scents of the sea, which is fat-loving and absorbed by the waxy ambergris in the making (much like butter in your fridge takes on the smell of other things).

"The longer it floats in the sea, the waxier it gets."

In most countries, including the UK, it is currently perfectly legal to salvage a lump of ambergris from beaches and sell it, either at auction or on sites such as eBay.  All whale and dolphin species are strictly protected under EU law and international trade in whale products is banned. However ambergris - as a waste product - is an exception.