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Leon Wright and his wife stumbled on the large lump of ambergris on a South Australian beach. Two weeks after first spotting the mysterious 14.75 kg lump, curiosity got the best of the couple and they took it to local marine ecology consultant Ken Jury.
Jury immediately recognized the material as ambergris, which is actually bile secreted by sperm whales to help them digest food.
Initially, ambergris is a soft, foul-smelling waste matter that floats on the ocean. Years of exposure to salt water and sun transform the lump into a compact waxy rock that possesses a sweet, earthy, marine and animalic odor.
Ambergris is a highly prized and rare fragrance ingredient. According to Jury, ambergris is worth US$20-$65 a gram, which could bring the Wright family anywhere from US$295,000. At the time of publication, it is unknown as to who will purchase the material from the family.
To learn more about ambergris, and the possibility of a synthetic version of the material, read From Ambergris to Cetalox Laevo, published in the March/April 2004 issue of Perfumer & Flavorist magazine.