Ambergris -- sounds like my mom's fruit salad on Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, the truth is a lot less sweet.
"Gris" is a solid waxy substance originating in the intestine of the sperm whale. When the sperm whale has a bowel movement, the ambergris is usually expelled through the rectum. The chunks float onto the surface of the sea, where the sun sterilizes and cooks them.
Ambergris floats and washes ashore most frequently on the coasts of China, Japan, Africa, the Americas and on tropical islands such as the Bahamas. In Eastern cultures, ambergris is used for medicines and potions and as a spice. In the West, it was used to stabilize the scent of fine perfumes.
No word on the cost of whale vomit or diarrhea, but we're guessing they're for the natives.
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