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  • This is ambergris.


  • It might look like a rock, but it's actually a rare kind of whale poop.


  • And it's not cheap.


  • Per gram, ambergris can cost more than silver, 30 times more.


  • If you've ever worn perfume, well I've got some unsettling news, you may have misted yourself with animal waste.


  • You see, for centuries, perfumers have been using ambergris to enhance their fragrances.


  • It's essentially a clump of squid beaks bound by a fatty secretion.


  • Over time, it balls up in the intestine of some sperm whales and eventually, out it goes.


  • Now, in the strictest sense, it's not technically poop but scientists think it exits the same way, if you catch my drift.


  • One way or another, a big boulder of ambergris is released into the ocean and it floats for decades, you know who knows how long?


  • And in that time, the mass transforms from a sticky dung-like substance into a hard gray chunk.


  • And this, believe it or not, is what perfumers covet.


  • For one, it contains a unique chemical that works as a fixative, which means it makes other smells in perfume last longer.


  • But ambergris is also valued for something incredibly surprising, apparently it smells good?


  • It's like a bouquet of 20 or 30 different chemical compounds, each have their own odor profile.

    它就像是綜合了 20 或 30 種不同化學混合物的花束,每一個都有獨特的氣味。

  • One will smell sort of like mushrooms, one will smell a little bit like tobacco, one smells like poop, one smells sort of like grass and hay.


  • Sounds great.


  • Well, apparently perfume designers use strong scents like those as the base note for their fragrances.


  • And base notes form the foundation of any perfume.


  • One company in particular has several expensive perfumes with base notes of ambergris.


  • Perfumes in this collection can sell for around $500 a bottle and are described as a passionate love letter in fragrant form.

    這系列的香水一瓶要價約 500 美金 (約台幣 15300),被形容為是香氛形式的火熱情書。

  • And while ambergris has all the makings for a great perfume, what really drives up the price tag is simply how rare it is.


  • Scientists don't know exactly why, but only about 1% of sperm whales produce this substance.

    科學家不知道為什麼,但只有大約 1% 的抹香鯨能產出這種物質。

  • In fact, researchers like Dr. Shane Gero, who spend years studying sperm whales, never end up seeing it.

    事實上,研究人員像是 Shane Gero 博士就已經花了數年研究抹香鯨,但從來沒真的親眼目睹過。

  • I've been collecting sperm whale poo for 15, 16 years and I haven't ever collected anything that I was like aw, maybe this is a tiny little ambergris ball.

    我搜集抹香鯨糞便已經有 15、16 年了,但我從來沒有搜集到任何龍涎香。

  • Sometimes, lucky beach-goers will stumble upon it.


  • In 2006, for example, a couple picked up a 32-pound piece on a beach in Australia.

    舉例來說,在 2006 年一對夫妻在澳洲海灘撿到一塊重達 32 磅 (約 14.5 公斤) 的龍涎香。

  • Media outlets later reported that it could be worth nearly $300,000.

    媒體後續報導它或許價值近 30 萬美金 (約台幣 920 萬)。

  • But more often, ambergris hunters will get to it first.


  • They track weather patterns and ocean currents to predict where it might end up, and once they find it, they sell it to brokers or perfumers for up to $7,200 a pound.

    他們追蹤天氣形態和洋流,預測龍涎香的可能位置,他們一旦找到,就會把它賣給中盤商或是香水師,一磅可以賣到 7200 美金 (約台幣 22 萬)。

  • This is like gold to them, this is a real commodity so they take it very seriously, they can be a big aggressive, muscular.


  • And they really closely guard their secrets.


  • But the commodity's high price isn't the only reason they do it.


  • In some countries, like the U.S., buying, selling, or even collecting ambergris is illegal.


  • That's because sperm whales are an internationally threatened species.


  • Before whaling starting actively, both historical and modern whaling, there was over a million sperm whales.


  • And now we're down closer to a fifth of that.


  • And while no whales are harmed in the collection of ambergris, Gero says that it's never a good idea to buy or sell products from an endangered species.

    雖然收集龍涎香的過程不會傷到任何抹香鯨,但 Gero 說購買或是販售來自瀕危物種的產品從來就不是個好事。

  • But until we can replicate something that smells as good as that, mm, whale poop, people will probably keep buying and selling ambergris.


This is ambergris.



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