Monday, March 24, 2008



Ambergris is a concretion originating in the intestine of the sperm whale. It is formed from ambrein a fatty substance similar to cholesterol found in squids. It is a white solid which becomes highly electrified upon rubbing. On exposure to sunlight, it gets changed to ambergris. The two intermediate constituents are gamma-dihydroionone, which is responsible for the characteristic faint odour of ambergris, and ambreinolide, which gives ambergris its fixative qualities in perfumes.

Whether ambergris is naturally produced by the whale or is a result of indigestion is disputed. It is frequently found with the hard, parrot-like beaks of squids, embedded in lungs, in the lower part of the large intestine.
When cast out as rounded lumps of dung, it is dark, almost black, of a sticky, tarry consistency and smells foul. Floating in the sea as it gets exposed to air its colour lightens from dark brown to golden yellow and then to chalky white. The smell, too, changes from fishy, then to sweetish, musty. Ambergris lumps may be huge, The price obtained by ambergris used to be fabulous. A thousand years ago, it was classed with slaves and gold as one of the important products of Maghrab (northern Africa). In 1912, a Norwegian whaling company was saved from bankruptcy by killing a sperm whale containing a lump weighing 455 Kgs which was sold in London for £ 23000 about Rs 18.40 lacs at current rates

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