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Cape Cod Is it a Fortune?

We have heard of small fortunes “picked up” from the sea or at the seashore when some lucky person discovered ambergris there. What is ambergris? and how could you be sure you had made a fortunate find of some if one day you were walking along the shore on Cape Cod and thought you saw some?

Ambergris is a peculiar, waxy substance “thrown up” by a sick sperm whale. In layman’s terms: “whale puke”.

Here are several ways to make sure you have the real thing, and not, one of several things that look like ambergris:

First, does it float? If it sinks, it is not ambergris; ambergris floats.
Second, how does it smell? Real ambergris has a very agreeable odor.
Third, Ambergris may be white, yellow, ash-gray, or black, or it may have a variegated marble-like appearance.
Fourth, Ambergris is waxy, fatty-like stuff.
Fifth, Ambergris melts at 140° and if you put a bit on hot coals it will entirely dissipate. It can also be dissolved in ether, volatile oils, and partly so in alcohol. You can test it by thrusting a red hot wire into it; if the material sticks to the wire, it may be ambergris.

Time was when ambergris was extremely important in the production of perfumes. Some Middle Eastern countries still use ambergris in the making of perfume. Scientists believe only about one percent of sperm whales release ambergris.

The best estimate of the price of ambergris at approximately $20 a gram. A piece of ambergris that was found in the Caribbean weighed around 30 kilograms or 66 pounds. The value of a 30 kilogram piece of ambergris at $20/gram would be about $600,000!  surprised

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Cape Cod
Posted by Cape Cod - (website) on 04/28/06
Categories: InterestingNature
Keywords: interesting, nature


It is not whale puke. You are wrong. It is defecated by some sperm whales. It is the partially digested intestinal remains of squid beaks and pens, etc., which most sperm whales get rid of by vomiting them up. A very small minority of them don’t, and expel ambergris.

Posted by james from cape cod on 07/25/12 at 11:55 PM | #

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