All about Whale Crap

Andrew Sullivan

It is pretty hard to pass up the ubiquitous Whale post…but this one is all about Whale crap and it is pretty amazing stuff:

Ben Shattuck reviews Christopher Kemp’s Floating Gold: A Natural (& Unnatural) History of Ambergris:

People have used ambergris (‘gray amber,’ French) for a long time — Moctezumaadded it to his tobacco, Casanova to his chocolate mousse, England’s King Charles II to his eggs; 17th-century French physicians used it to cure rabies, Florida’s American Indians as an antidote for fish poison, and today, companies like Chanel and Guerlain as fixative in their most expensive perfumes.

So what does it smell like?

Here is a solid lump of whale feces, weathered down—oxidized by salt water, degraded by sunlight, and eroded by waves — from the tarry mass to something that smells, depending on the piece and whom you’re talking to, like musk, violets, fresh-hewn wood, tobacco, dirt, Brazil nut, fern-copse, damp woods, new-mown hay, seaweed in the sun, the wood of old churches, or pretty much any other sweet-but-earthy scent. Borne in whale guts to be crushed and dabbed on the wrists and necks of the elite.

Synthetic alternatives have been discovered but Kemp isn’t convinced:

Scientists may be able to produce compounds that can mimic the fixative properties of ambergris, but the odor of the ambergris is itself indescribable, let alone replicable.


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  • Adybombs

    Are you trying to tell us that your shit doesn’t stink?

  • RockyFist

    Ambergris ain’t shit, its a Whale Hairball. Specifically a Sperm Whales.

    • Beat me by heaps RockFist – And then Whaleoil……we used to love telling young ladies they were spreading whale snot on themselves in their make up back in the 1970’s – back then we were taught it was expelled from their blowholes – i.e. snot, not from their mouths… Wikipedia – todays font of all knowledge now says it comes out the mouth – either way it ain’t shit…..

  • from Wikipedia

    “Ambergris is usually passed in the fecal matter. Ambergris that forms a mass too large to be passed through the intestines is expelled via the mouth, leading to the reputation of ambergris as primarily coming from whale vomit.”

  • Blokeintakapuna

    From about $9-11 / gram – no wonder it’s called floating gold!