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Ambergris

Updated on December 14, 2012

Who'd have thought fish vomit could be so valuable?

Ambergris is a pathological secretion sometimes found in the stomach of the sperm whale, in lumps of up to 50 kilograms in weight.

It is occasionally seen floating on the sea, or washed up on beaches, having presumably been vomited by the whale. It is a wax-like, grayish material, with a characteristic odor which is not, however, disagreeable.

Its secretion is believed to be stimulated by cuttlefish beaks in the whale's alimentary canal, since such beaks are often found embedded in ambergris. Chemically it consists of higher alcohols, together with some fatty acids. It melts at about 60 degrees celsius and at 100 degrees volatilizes to a white vapor. Ambergris is soluble in hot alcohol, and when purified is used in perfumery as a fixative.

Ambergris find is just spit in ocean

Rare pieces of ambergris - whale spit - found on a beach would be worth $150,000 ... if it could be sold in Australia.

Stephen Atkinson believes he has found pieces of ambergris - a by-product from sperm whales, used to make perfume - but is at a loss as to what to do with it.

Mr Atkinson, of Portland, made the find while walking his dog on a local beach.

He dismissed it at first but returned and, on closer inspection, determined it was ambergris.

"It had just washed up on to the shore," Mr Atkinson said.

"I've heard about it before but never really seen it."

Ambergris, also know as whale spit, is produced in sperm whales' digestive systems and is highly sought after by the high-end perfume industry.

It can fetch as much as $20 a gram on the international market, but its sale is prohibited under Australian law.

Mr Atkinson said he had consulted a solicitor about what to do with his 7.5kg find.

"We're not going to sell it - we don't want to do anything illegal," he said.

"We don't know what to do. It's all a bit crazy."

Dolphin Research Institute researcher David Donnelly said there was not much Mr Atkinson could do with the ambergris.

"He cannot sell it or make any money from it," Mr Donnelly said.

"Probably the only thing he could do with it is donate it to the museum.

"If you lived somewhere that didn't have the laws or regulations on whales that we do, you could probably sell it and make some good money."

Source

Ambergris at a Glance

Ambergris (Ambra grisea, Ambre gris, ambergrease, or grey amber) is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull gray or blackish color produced in the digestive system of sperm whales. Ambergris has a peculiar sweet, earthy odor (similar to isopropyl alcohol); though it has now been largely displaced by synthetics, the principal historical use of ambergris was as a fixative in perfumery.

Ambergris occurs as a biliary secretion of the intestines of the sperm whale, and can be found floating upon the sea, or in the sand near the coast. Because giant squids' beaks have been found embedded within lumps of ambergris, scientists have theorized that the whale's intestine produces the substance as a means of facilitating the passage of hard, sharp objects that the whale might have inadvertently eaten. Ambergris can be found in the Atlantic Ocean; on the coasts of Brazil and Madagascar; and on the coast of Africa, of the East Indies, The Maldives, mainland China, Japan, India, Australia, New Zealand and the Molucca islands. However, most commercially collected ambergris comes from the Bahama Islands, Providence Island, etc. It is also sometimes found in the abdomens of whales. Additionally, Herman Melville makes mention of ambergris in Moby-Dick. He discusses at length how ambergris was commonly found in dead whales floating in the South Pacific.

Source

Got any Ambergris to sell?

These guys will buy it off you...

Have you ever found a big chunk of whales vomit washed up on the beach?

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    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      i found a waxy substance on beach as well as loads of cuttle fish round the area, it smells like sea weedish when melted on my cooker top it give a sweet musky smell of , could this be ambergris?

    • scrapquilter profile image

      Myreda Johnson 

      5 years ago from Ohio USA

      Hope. I am landlocked. I did, however, read about it in Moby Dick.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      @anonymous: How about dogs vomit.are any buyers?.I have plenty from my Pitbull.very cheap.

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 

      5 years ago from France

      On the radio today they reported on a guy whose dog found 43,000 worth of ambergris: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-21267404. Thought you might be intrested.

    • CoolKarma profile image

      CoolKarma 

      5 years ago

      Ha ha ha, no I haven't found any whale vomit (that I am aware of)! I have heard of Ambergris and had no idea exactly what it was. thank you for the fascinating enlightenment.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      Hi just found two pieces on a beach in Western Australia total weight 11kgs

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      Have a 3kg lump. Took it home out of curiosity, did some Internet research and some tests and found it to be of value.Need a buyer.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      Yes I have found some , just over 200grams, have researched and it seems to be the genuine, did the burn test and it looked a type of black tar when it was alight, there are bigger blocks also, contact me if your interested

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      Yes approx 320grams in new zealand waters. Looking for a buyer!

    • hlkljgk profile image

      hlkljgk 

      6 years ago from Western Mass

      um, no.

    • profile image

      MarcellaCarlton 

      6 years ago

      NO, but there is plenty of Japanese junk from the tsunami out there.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      This is an ingredient in Channel no5 as well as musk it is more often shat out then thrown up

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      Any one interested in ambergris?

    • profile image

      topnotes21 

      6 years ago

      No, I've never seen whale vomit on a beach before and I never knew whale vomit can be a component in perfumes, wonder if most fragrances with ambergris are synthetically made or whether it is the real thing...

    • sudokunut profile image

      Mark Falco 

      6 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      Can I interest you in the Eau de Whale Barf madam? It's always amusing to find disgusting things in everyday use, like cochineal from crushed bugs or the prescription drug my mum was taking for a long time until she found it came from horse pee. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      yes

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 

      6 years ago

      There's whale vomit in my perfume???? Yuck! Interesting lens.

    • profile image

      EricOlsen 

      6 years ago

      wow! I'm surprised to see a lens about this! I first heard about if from Bill Mollison talking about his childhood experiences in Tasmania during a permaculture course. Isn't it ironic that something so unappealing is used as for perfume?

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