Friday, October 23, 2009

Underbelly of Nature Moment: Ambergris

Whale vomit
Originally uploaded by figgen1st
Recently, the topic of Ambergris has come up in some of the Pagans of Etsy Team chats. Commonly used as a fixative in parfume, it's value is, apparently worth more than gold. I knew this stuff came from Sperm Whales, I just assumed it was some harvested organ or oil. The truth, my friends, is even grosser than that.

Ambergris is a 'biliary concretion,' of the intestines of sperm whales. Scientists aren't 100% sure about what causes it, but they think it may be that "whale's intestine produces the substance as a means of easing the passage of hard, sharp objects that the whale might have inadvertently eaten," - like giant squid beaks!! This led us to some nicknames - "sperm whale hork," or my fave, "sperm whale hairballs." However, according to Wikipedia (I know, I know, font of all things factual and true, right? But still, it's free and it's on the internets,) the Ambergris is MOST OFTEN expressed through sperm whale fecal!! Ah, the sweet smell of Nature.

Oh, and thanks to figgen1st, from whom I stole the picture of an Ambergris 'pearl.'


jessica, a miniature rhino said...

perfect, another good reason why i do not like perfumes or stuff w/ or tested on animals, because it could very well be from the intestines of a whale....

Allan said...

I hear it tastes like chicken. Well, chicken and vomit.