View Full Version : spermalogical advice

04-04-2001, 09:01 PM
the abaco thread prompts me to ask a question. a couple of years ago, on the northwest end of guana cay, i found a big ball of some sort of pliable, clear, sweet-smelling soft waxlike stuff while beachcombing. my first thought was that it might be ambergris, but i couldn't find a good enough description of it in any sources. i asked haziel albury, patriarch of man-o-war and local historian, if anyone ever found ambergris on the beaches in the past and he insisted that it had happened from time to time.
now, i've got a two pound ball of this stuff, brought through customs though i'm told it's illegal. some friends have even told me it's illegal to have the stuff, if it is indeed ambergris.
any cetologists out there who can tell me what ambergris looks, feels and smells like? what's it worth, if anything? is it illegal to have it in my possession?

J. Dillon
04-04-2001, 09:33 PM
I think there is a detailed description of ambergris in Melville's " Moby Dick".

04-04-2001, 10:07 PM
My fifth grader was dicussing this stuff a few weeks ago in school. He said it started in the whales bowels as a thick black stinky fluid, that when exposed to sunlight and oxygen turns light, waxy and good smelling. How and why it got out he didn't say, and I didn't ask. Seems a tiny bit put on the page of a book will still be detectable, by smell, decades later. The good smelling stuff in it (he recalls) is ambien, now chemically synthesized and sold as "Ambrox"(?). Also says you might find the remains if beaks imbedded in it, as that is what it originally was before it got to the whales gut.

-All this was from a ten year old, so a grain of salt goes with it-


04-04-2001, 10:16 PM
Just what it smells like might help us come to a definition. I agree, at least partially, look to Melville.

ken mcclure
04-04-2001, 10:36 PM
Go to
to find out MORE than you wanted to know.

04-05-2001, 07:00 AM
i had already read the description in "moby dick," it was the first place i looked, but my encyclopedia wasn't much help. i always thought it was ambergris, i guess i was just trying to find out if it could possibly be anything else.
so, looks like i have a two pound ball of ambergris. anybody know what it's worth? what about the legality of ambergris dealing?
that ambergris site is awesome, kw, i'll check it out thoroughly later tonight.

Bruce Taylor
04-05-2001, 07:30 AM
"It's true, Officer...I found it on the beach!"

Get real, Prose. You snuffed some poor whale for his ambergris, right? Where'd you stash the body?

Well, I won't sing...as long I get half the take.

04-05-2001, 07:31 AM
I realize that the world seems bent on keeping everybody in little boxes, but why on earth would there be a rule against harboring a ball of whale puke?
I was under the impression that the perfume industry used it and that it is (was?) valuable.

ken mcclure
04-05-2001, 07:35 AM
As there is a ban on the trade in ambergris, it doesn't have an official value. If you can find someone in or knowledgeable about the perfume industry, you may be able to find out what it WAS worth when it was traded.

Ed Harrow
04-05-2001, 09:17 AM
Eb, looks like your junior memember is quite on the ball. Give the guy a pat on the back and have a bit of confidence in him.

04-05-2001, 05:30 PM
Brucie, i could be looking at some serious time here. marine mammal protection act, 1972, violation to possess products of endangered marine mammals, even when said products are balls of puke washed up on bahamian beaches.
now, i'm convinced it's ambergris after perusing some web sites and getting a better description of it. and, my brother-in-law just happens to be french. and he just happens to be in the business of making bottles. and the bottles just happen to be filled with high-priced, what? anybody want to guess? perfume, right!
so, my dreams of finding treasure on the beach may come true after all. of course, the feds are probably monitoring this site and are on their way to my house right now.
conclusion and info on shoot-out to follow...

Bruce Taylor
04-05-2001, 05:39 PM
Strange old world.

So what does this stuff smell like?

04-05-2001, 05:50 PM
hard to describe, what does a banana smell like? basically, an overall musky sort of sweetness - like your lover, after the mango marmalade has been applied...

04-05-2001, 06:52 PM
Yep, sounds like you've just become hotter than your average jalapeno. How much does it weigh? Don't listen to your French brother en perfumier. Don't listen to anyone....not even us. How much does it weigh?

Hide your children, look to the hills. Hey, maybe it would buy that bounty ketch.

[This message has been edited by ishmael (edited 04-05-2001).]

Bob Cleek
04-06-2001, 11:28 AM
I think I found some of that stuff under my toenails one time! Maybe I better start saving it up! It certainly sounds like the kind of thing the French would dab behind their ears!

[This message has been edited by Bob Cleek (edited 04-06-2001).]

04-06-2001, 01:20 PM
Actually the feds passed by here on their way to your house, should be showing up up your way tomorrow wee hours so if I were you I'd go straight to ebay and get rid of it, either that or rub it on your lover.

04-07-2001, 09:35 AM
i have a half-gallon ice cream container full of the stuff, about two pounds, i'd guess. haven't heard from the french brother-in-law yet, or the french bureau of investigation, but i'm looking over my shoulder.
the only kink in the plan so far is this. i left the stuff at our place in the woods when we moved into town. friends of ours moved into our old place for a while and did some 'cleaning up.' when asked recently if they remembered seeing a plastic tub filled with a wax-like substance somewhere around, the male member of the couple said, "yeah, it might have been in that load of stuff i took to the dump."
i'll be going out to the old homestead as soon as the road is passable, hoping that he's wrong and i put it in a safe place beyond the reach of good-hearted cleaner-uppers.
it would be just my luck, though.

Bruce Taylor
04-07-2001, 10:12 AM
So how are you gonna fence the goods? The economics of illicit merchandise are very strange.

Your own head, which, you're probably quite attached to, is almost without value on the open market -- even if you have it lovingly prepared for sale by the Jivaros Indians of Ecuador. But those plastic shrunken heads that you used to see hanging from rear-view mirrors--well, those are considered collectible. You can get a few bucks for them.

Of course, on the black market your head is actually quite a valuable thing.

I ate a big plate of whale meat in Czechoslovakia a number of years ago. Not bad at all.


04-10-2001, 05:44 AM
barbara prose says my head is not screwed on too tightly (why would i tell the entire world i had illegal whale vomit in my possession?) and, thus, would be easy to remove for sale. she asks that you send her any information you have on who might want my head, and she will make the appropriate arrangements.

Bruce Taylor
04-10-2001, 06:15 AM
Well, I just dropped by ebay. You'll be glad to know that there is a market for human heads. This little baby could be yours for just $375:

Now, before you get all excited and put your own head on the (he he) block, you should know that you'll have to clean it up first. There is no market at all for all those messy brains.

The free market, as any economist will tell you, is always right. A human head, like anything else, is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. I believe yours, properly prepared, might fetch between three hundred and a thousand dollars (less, if you are missing some teeth). You might want to have it insured.

04-10-2001, 07:06 AM
Of course, as anyone who's watched Antiques Road Show knows, it must be in original condition. No thoughtless refinishing if you please.

04-10-2001, 01:12 PM
I am a sperm whale biologist. The work for my masters thesis involved jumping into the slick of a defaecating sperm whale to retrieve dietary evidence. We lived on a small sailing vessel for three weeks at a time. I was never very popular....

If the stuff you have smells like whale ****, run away !

04-12-2001, 02:40 PM
the stuff i have smells like whale musk and incense. if i can only find it.
and, bruce, i'm getting worried. i've never seen barbara studying ebay so intently before!

On Vacation
02-12-2004, 08:33 PM

02-12-2004, 08:48 PM
Another for the classics collection :D

On Vacation
02-12-2004, 09:39 PM
It has been bad weather this last two days, Margo, and some of the threads has allowe for the sun to shine. What a set of archieves!!

Bruce Taylor
02-13-2004, 08:27 AM
And Prose vanished from sight not long after. Makes you think!