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Note on : Ambergris



Ambergris like this one has been collected for centuries along the schors of the Indian ocean









This substance is found floating on the sea, or thrown by the waves upon the shores of various countries, particularly in the southern hemisphere; it is now generally believed to be produced in the intestines of the spermaceti whale. It is found in roundish or amorphous shaped pieces, usually small, but sometimes of considerable magnitude; and masses have been found weighing from 50 to 200 pounds. These pieces are often composed of concentric layers; they are of various colors, usually gray, with brownish yellow and white streaks, often dark brown or blackish on the external surface. They are opaque, lighter than water, and of a consistence like that of wax, and have a peculiar aromatic agreeable order, and are almost tasteless, and soften with the warmth of the hand. Ambergris is insoluble in water, but will dissolve in hot alcohol. Ambergris is used as a perfume, and as a perfume for liquors. The scent is of seaweed, wood and moss with a sweet undertone of unequalled tenacity.
Only 3-4% of all sperm whales killed by the Soviet whaling fleet were found to contain ambergris.
The bacterium Spirillum recti physeteris is thought responsible for the production of the pleasant odor principle of ambergris in the gut of the sperm whale.
During digestion, perhaps initiated by the sharp beak of a squid which are found in the amber and encouraged by a flow of bile, a dark, sticky resinous mass builds up in the stomach of some whales. This becomes squeezed into a bolus in the intestine, where it picks up more squid beaks and detritus, growing as new strata are added to its surface, until the whole lump is excreted; it floats on the ocean surface or breaks up into smaller aromatic pieces which eventually drift ashore. This is ambergris. Ambergris consists of 80% ambrein, a cholesterol derivative