A large whitish lump of what looked like lard washed up on the shores of Breaker Bay in New Zealand which sparked a “gold” rush amongst the locals. They thought might be ambergris, the excretion of sperm whales. The original lump was about as big as a 44 gallon drum but treasure hunters helped themselves to it by hacking bits off with spades and other implements.
Ambergris was once used as a perfume fixative. It is so expensive that synthetic compounds are now used. Depending on quality, one gm of ambergris could bring $10, so 1 kg of ambergris may fetch $10,000. Hence the excitement of the New Zealand locals. The specimen was reportedly foul smelling. It hasn’t yet been tested so it is unclear if it is really ambergris. Some of the locals believe it may even have been a barrel or lard or cheese that fell off a boat.
Ambergris is a waxy substance produced by whales as a biliary secretion into their intestines. Scientists think ambergris is a way whales handle eating hard and sharp substances as squid beaks have been found inside ambergris specimens. Ambergris has a strange sweet earthy smell like that of isopropanol (rubbing alcohol). When freshly expelled, it is pale white in color with a fecal aroma. Specimens range from several gms to 50 kg or more.
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