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Jennifer Kennedy

Ambergris (Not Whale Poo) Found on Beach

By February 4, 2013

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In August 2012, a boy and his father found some ambergris on a beach in England. Apparently England's beaches are a good place to look for this substance, which is a waxy substance that comes from the intestines of sperm and pygmy sperm whales.  Gold's been struck again - this time on a different beach in England (Morecambe, in Lancashire), and by a man named Ken Wilman whose dog "started poking at a rather large stone."

Wilman initially walked past the stone, and then went back to get it. According to BBC News, he's been offered 50,000 Euros (about $67,000 US dollars)  for the piece by a French dealer, pending testing. The piece of ambergris weighs 7 lbs. The substance has been used since ancient times in perfumes, medicines and food, and is still very valuable today.

Whales apparently expel ambergris far from land. It is thought to aid digestion in the whales, since the ambergris that is found often contains squid beaks.  It is unknown exactly how the whale releases it - theories are that it comes out of the mouth as vomit, or is excreted with feces, or maybe it is just released when the whale dies and decays. News stories often refer to it as whale vomit, or whale poo, causing writer Deborah Orr to write the brief post, entitled "It's Not 'Whale Vomit', It's Ambergris. It's a Nice Word, and Useful, So Let's Use It," saying, "It's condescending and banal to reach for simpler, less accurate words for something when perfectly good ones already exist."

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