18 Oct

Ambergris, the most expensive excrement in the world.

It is a flammable, waxy substance produced in the digestive system of the sperm whale, normally looking like a strange dull grey rock.

Ambergris Source: Wikimedia Commons

Scientists believe that it may be produced to help hard and sharp objects to move through the digestive system, but in some cases the objects may become coated in ambergris and end up too large to pass through the intestine, in which case the whale vomits it up. This has lead to the confusion that ambergris is just whale vomit, when in fact it can be expelled in the whales fecal matter as well.

Ambergris has most often been found washed up along beaches, but there are cases where it has been found bobbing along in the ocean. It is most commonly used in perfumes as it has a very distinct smell, but historical records show it was also used by the Egyptians in tombs as incense and some other cultures even used it to flavour food. Its smell is often described as a marine, fecal odor but as it ages, it develops a sweeter, more earthy aroma.

Ambergris can often sell for $20-$50 a gram as it is quite rare and highly sought after.

In January of this year a man found a 6 pound lump of ambergris while walking his dog on the beach – link.

In August of last year a young boy and his father found a lump while walking on their local beach – link

If you are ever walking along the beach and find a lump of waxy material, take it home with you. You might just have found a piece of very valuable whale excrement.

For more information see the wikipedia article on ambergris

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