- Published: 29 July 2009
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A 100 pound wad of smelly ambergris was once sold for a hundred thousand dollars. But you could hunt a whole life time for this treasure trove and never find any at a11. You might by chance find a small lump of it on a beach and if you went whaling you might find a mushy mass of it inside a giant whale.
Many people have found small wads or big lumps of ambergris by chance on some sandy beach. The most likely beaches are around New Zealand or Australia. Many more people have come across ambergris on a beach, held their noses and passed it by, never dreaming that the waxy, smelly stuff can be sold for about two hundred dollars a pound.
Other people have found mushy masses of ambergris inside the stomach of the sperm whale. This monster whale, perhaps 80 feet long, is the sole manufacturer of ambergris and we do not know his secret recipe. The whale, poor fellow, would be happy to forget all about it, for it means that ho has indigestion and a severe stomach ache which may even cost him his life.
The sperm whale dines in the ocean depths on cuttlefish and giant squid. Then he comes near the surface perhaps to gobble up a ten foot shark for dessert. He uses the fifty or so huge teeth in his lower jaw to hack his food into great chunks, which he swallows whole. Each giant squid is a soft bodied fellow with a big, hard, parrot type beak and Mr. Whale gulps him down, beak and all.
The sperm whale devours a ton of food a day and after a squid dinner, a number of squid beaks may get stuck in his stomach where they are painfully indigestible.
The whale’s stomach produces a waxy wad of ambergris around the dagger sharp beaks and sometimes he is able to throw up the whole mash of mush, including the beaks, into the sea.
Ambergris is lighter than water. It floats on the tides and currents and here and there wads of it are washed upon the beaches. It is streaked with greys and maybe yellows and, after exposure to the dry air, it could be mistaken for a crumbly, marblized stone. The musky smell lasts and lasts, so the lucky treasure hunter may need to hold his nose. The smelly treasure will be sold, of all the people in the world, to a maker of fine perfumes.
The fatty substances in ambergris are able to retain an odor for a long long time. Sweet flower smells and other pleasant scents blended in a fine perfume usually fade fast, but a trace of ambergris added to the recipe will help them keep their fragrance.