The Highs And Lows Of Finding Ambergris
Story provided by an
Australian Thrill Seeker and TTS Swag Winner
The Big Storm
On October 12, 2016, a big storm belted the 2,632 inhabitants of the small, seaside village of Port Noarlunga South, located 30 kilometers south of Adelaide, Australia. Port Noarlunga South is where the Onkaparinga River meets the salty water of St. Vincent Gulf. The big storm created fierce flooding and left a wake of destruction behind in the form of tons of wood, sponges, sea grasses, and other ocean debris.
Catching The Beachcombing Bug
After watching a new’s program from the U.K., about a man finding a lump of debris on the beach that turned out to be worth $240,000, my son and I began walking the beaches around Port Noarlunga South. After six years of walking the beaches on a daily basis, we collected all kinds of sponges, shells, and other ocean related items.
The day after the big storm, we stumbled upon a small, hard, unknown lump in the sand. We dug the lump out of the sand, but were taken back by the stench and decided to leave it on the beach. As an after thought, I conducted a Google search and found out that the smelly lump was actually something called ambergris.
What Is Ambergris?
Ambergris is highly, valuable material discharged by Sperm Whales. Ambergris is believed to be produced in a secretion of the bile duct, in the intestine of the Sperm Whale. Giant Squid beaks are often found in Ambergris, which leads scientists to theorize that ambergris is used to break down the squid beaks and aid passage through the Sperm Whale’s digestive tract.
Normally ambergris is passed with Sperm Whale’s fecal matter, but if the ambergris lump becomes too large and forms into an impassable size, it is discharged through the whale’s mouth as vomit.
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It can take years to develop ambergris in a whale. Ambergris is only developed in Sperm Whales and is only developed by 1% of Sperm Whales. Ambergris can float in the ocean for years before making landfall. All of these factors combined make ambergris a very, rare substance.
- Ambergris can range in size from a couple of ounces up to a record 110 pounds.
- In 2015, a 29 pound piece of ambergris was found on a beach in Oman.
- Ambergris is generally found on the beaches of southern oceans.
- Ambergris comes out of the Sperm Whale as a pale color, but through time and oxidation develops into a gray or black color.
- A fossilized piece of ambergris from 1.75 million years ago was discovered.
- Most commercially found ambergris comes from the Bahamas and the Caribbean particularly New Providence.
- In 2015, a 2.4 pound lump of Ambergris from Wales sold for $17,ooo at auction.
What Is Ambergris Used For?
In modern times, ambergris is used primarily in the production of high-end perfumes around the world.
Ancient Egyptians burned ambergris as an incense and modern day Egyptians use it for scenting cigarettes.
Ancient Chinese used ambergris for perfume production, as an aphrodisiac, and for food flavoring.
During the Middle Ages, Europeans burned ambergris because they thought the smell would ward off the plague and fight colds, headaches, and epilepsy.