People will pay anything to smell it
Ambergris means “grey amber.” It’s made when a sperm whale ingests something hard like the beak of a squid, and the whale’s intestines coat the hard object with a thick, waxy substance to be able to pass it with ease. The waxy stone comes out with fecal matter, but some people believe it can also travel back through the intestines to be vomited out.
As unappetizing as that sounds, the matter is worth a lot of money because people throughout history have found it have an alluring scent and distinct, incredible taste. It’s rare, but apparently some has recently turned up on shore!
Ambergris was used in ancient Egyptian society for incense. It was called “Dragon’s Spittle Fragrance” in ancient Chinese society. Medieval Europeans believed it could help them ward off disease if they wore it on their person. King Charles II enjoyed eating ambergris with eggs so much that he said it was his favorite meal.
Though ambergris has been celebrated throughout history as a specialty dish for royalty and high-end perfume ingredient, it is illegal to possess in some countries where whaling has been banned. Legislative bodies and whale protection agencies don’t want people killing whales to extract ambergris since it’s so rare to find when excreted naturally.
A Rare Find
Jack Tipper is one of the few people on Earth lucky enough to come across a chunk of naturally-excreted ambergris while he was walking on the beach. The 39-year-old musician walked along Ilfracombe Beach in Devon, England and spotted the sizable lump of “floating gold.”
“There had been storms and the sea had been rough but I just saw it in the seaweed. I picked it up and I knew what it was,” Jack told the BBC.
Jack said that he took it to an area university and an “online expert” who said that it’s genuine, and it’s worth a ton of money.
Jack said that the people he spoke to said that his find could be worth over £200,000 considering a smaller piece of ambergris found in Wales sold for £11,000 at an auction in 2015.
“Maybe it’s providence. I’m a musician and I put on lots of free community events and I’ve never been able to afford a house, so this would help,” Jack explained. The musician is keeping his potentially life-changing find in a safe until he knows what he wants to do with it.
There is at least one skeptic out there who believes that Jack didn’t really pick up genuine ambergris since none has been found in the area before. “There have been no verified samples from the South West [of England],” Professor Steve Rowland of Plymouth University said. “We’ve had a lot recently where were not ambergris, but palm oil, paraffin wax, or fat of various types.”
According to Ambergris Expertise & Buying Worldwide, ambergris has a specific odor that makes it identifiable.
“To some people the odor is nauseous while to others it is attractive and even sensuous. There is certainly an animalistic component, reminiscent of farm animals, or even a fecal note, perhaps like that of a well-rotted manure heap. There can also be a strong marine note like the smell of seaweed on a beach. Once you have smelt it you will not forget it.”
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