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January 24, 2006

Ambergris bonanza!


Beachcombing couple finds $295,000 chunk of ambergris, a fatty bile-like substance produced by sperm whales and prized by perfume manufacturers. [CNET]

The ambergris windfall story also supplies today's fun cephalopod factoid:

The hard beaks of giant squid, a main source of food for the whale, have often been found inside lumps of ambergris. [BBC]

Update: PZ Myers on the science of ambergris.


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» Ambergris! from Pharyngula
Majikthise reports that an Australian couple has found a $295,000 lump of ambergris on a beach. Ambergris is cool stuff, so let me add to it's splendor by bringing up two scientific views of it. First, let's hear from... [Read More]


Silly new software. I have to get used to this thing -- my apologies for flooding you with trackbacks.

So is whale puke the new cocaine, or what?

No problem. I think it's TypePad's fault. I got 13 identical trackbacks from somebody else today, too.

Perhaps I'm just a countersnob[*], but the fact that overpriced perfume is based on whale puke strikes me as deeply symbolic.

[*] is there a better word for snobbish disdain for snobbery?

[*] is there a better word for snobbish disdain for snobbery?

I think his name is David Brooks.

Well..., I still haven't quite figured out "backtracking" or "trackbacking" or whatever... but I was interested in posting on this ambergris as well and pointed to both you and PZMyers.

Given that giant squid are pretty smart, I think we need to organize a protest against their poor treatment by sperm whales.

Bob Koepp--

Sperm whales have 50-60 teeth. Each is about 7" long and weighs ~2lb. I'm all for animal rights, and will happily scrawl "meat is murder" on a McDonald's or throw red paint on an elderly woman's coat. But I'm not going to swim around a pod of sperm whales wearing a "save the squids" t-shirt.

I find it interesting that, according to the article, ambergris is "banned" in the U.S. So do they go out and arrest vomiting whales?

a fatty bile-like substance produced by sperm whales

I thought you were going to post about Rush Limbaugh again....

michael Schmidt--

The usual method for collecting ambergris was killing sperm whales, which is now prohibited. I don't know if ambergris itself is banned.

It was used to keep perfume from evaporating, which is done with synthetic substances today. It was not prized for its smell, but for its relative lack of smell.

Also, it's produced inside the whales' intestines, so I don't know if it can be properly described as "puke."

Melville on the subject:

He actually starts at the end of the preceeding chapter #91 "THE PEQUOD MEETS THE ROSE-BUD"

Can’t help but comment on whales and the subject of the sublime meeting the disgusting. I used to work on tuna boats. If a floating, dead whale is sighted, the boat will head towards it and take a few turns around it to see if it is accompanied by tuna. Dead whales (and other floating objects) sometimes attract schools (we’re talking tons) of tuna. (They just do. Who knows why.) The whale is usually not even recognizable as such; it being mostly just a huge mass of rotting blubber and flesh. Around the whale, if the water is calm, there will be about a quarter acre of oil slick. Fluttering above the slick like black butterflies, are hundreds or even thousands of storm petrels. Storm petrels are about the size of starlings, mostly black, vaguely gull-like, with oversized black legs and feet. They sail over the ocean finding plankton by smell. They’re a bit spooky, they don’t follow ships, they appear out of the ocean’s nothingness and head right back into it. When they find oil seeping away from blubber they hover delicately, inches off the water, patting the surface with their feet, taking quick sips of the oil. The sight of thousands flitting about over the smooth patch of oil is as beautiful as the stench is repellant.

We have more than 15 kgs of Ambergris collected from our shores. Please contact us if you are interested in this. Thanks. E-Mail:

I have 10kg of AMBERGRIS sitting in my warehouse now! It doesn't look like those dinosaur's eggs chanced by the Australian couples. Mine looks like a speckled (full of unidentifiable specks & GOD-knows-what), uneven off-white to rusty orange plasticine lump. Yes, very waxy, floats on water, doesn't oxidise under constant sunlight. Have tried washing the waxy feel with strongest household detergent but it stays and the musky, little sweet & warm aroma lingers on the fingers! Can't help sniffing!

I got it from parts of Indonesia where Sperm Whales frequent. Feel free to contact me directly at the following:

My e-mail:
Mobile: + 62 812 9589 777



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