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  1. #1

    Default Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Dear Friends,

    I hope this isn't considered a commercial post, because it's definitely not! My book on ambergris will be published in May, 2012, by the University of Chicago Press. Its title is Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris. I'm really excited about the book and the project. I hope it sheds light on this strange, mysterious and misunderstood substance.

    On several different occasions while I was writing and researching the book, I posted questions on Basenotes and received some really useful and important help and feedback from members ... so it seems only appropriate that you all know the book is soon on its way.

    It's available on Amazon and AmazonUK. If you're on Facebook, you should be able to find the dedicated page for the book, where you can "Like" it. In fact, on the Facebook page there's a tab that allows people to link straight to the publishers to buy the book at 30% off.

    Again, this isn't a commercial post. I'm just trying to make sure that the people who helped me don't pay full price for something they can buy with a significant discount.

    All very best, and thanks so much for your support!!

    Christopher Kemp

  2. #2

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Congrats! Ambergris is such an interesting material, so this sounds really interesting. In the book, will you also provide information on perfumes one can smell to get the various facets of amber? Few of us have access to good quality ambergris, so usually one's idea of it comes from commercial perfumes.

    cacio

  3. #3

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Thanks so much! With regard to your question, I actually think that there's far better information about which fragrances contain ambergris notes right here on the forum and on the Basenotes website. This sort of information can also be found on numerous perfume blogs and even in newspapers like the New York Times, which employs perfume critics, etc.

    I'm not a perfumer or a fragrance expert. I'm a biologist and so I spend quite a bit of time on the natural history of ambergris production, and also on the science behind the molecular characteristics of ambergris, and the oceanographic conditions required to make it wash ashore. I also meet and talk with ambergris hunters, traders, sellers, end users, etc.

  4. #4
    hednic's Avatar
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    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Bravo on your book!

  5. #5
    Dependent Birdboy48's Avatar
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    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Sounds like a "right from the horse's mouth" sort of book, and quite valuable when it comes to a substance so full of mystery and lore. Congratulations on what must have been some fascinating research and travel, and the fact that your efforts have now come to fruition !

  6. #6

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    The history of the acquisition and use of this material is absolutely fascinating and I think a book on this subject is long overdue. I'm sure every fragrance enthusiast is going to pounce on this book when it is published. I can't wait to learn more about this, especially coming from a scientist as yourself. Congratulations Mr. Kemp!

  7. #7

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    What a great reference. Thank you for sharing.

    You might wish to cross-post this to the DIY forum.
    "No sweet perfume ever tortured me more than this." Desert Rose by Sting and Cheb Mami, Album 1999.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Crikey ... how do I cross post to another forum?

  9. #9

    Default Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Dear Friends,

    I hope this isn't considered a commercial post, because it's definitely not! My book on ambergris will be published in May, 2012, by the University of Chicago Press. Its title is Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris. I'm really excited about the book and the project. I hope it sheds light on this strange, mysterious and misunderstood substance.

    On several different occasions while I was writing and researching the book, I posted questions on Basenotes and received some really useful and important help and feedback from members ... so it seems only appropriate that you all know the book is soon on its way.

    It's available on Amazon and AmazonUK. If you're on Facebook, you should be able to find the dedicated page for the book, where you can "Like" it. In fact, on the Facebook page there's a tab that allows people to link straight to the publishers to buy the book at 30% off.

    Again, this isn't a commercial post. I'm just trying to make sure that the people who helped me don't pay full price for something they can buy with a significant discount.

    All very best, and thanks so much for your support!!

    Christopher Kemp

  10. #10

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Crossposting is against the rules .
    "Scent is very important. Strong fragrances suit some men, while citrus types suit others. I like my men to smell fresh and woody, but also like a man."
    Donatella Versace

  11. #11

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Thanks for posting and congratulations on the book!

  12. #12

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    I found this very interesting article on Mr. Kemp's book on ambergris:http://www.mlive.com/living/grand-ra...t_sees_hu.html.

  13. #13
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    chrisbar1104's Avatar
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    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Hope to buy the book and meet you in person during the book release this May!
    "The most beautiful sea hasnít been crossed yet. The most beautiful child hasnít grown up yet. The most beautiful days we havenít seen yet. And the most beautiful words I wanted to tell you... I havenít said yetÖ"
    -Nazim Hikmet Ran

  14. #14

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    ONE BIG QUESTION: is it poop or vomit?

  15. #15

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Poop! Almost without doubt. I think the lives of sperm whales are sufficiently mysterious that no one can be 100% certain ... but the anatomy, and the location in which its found, and the physiologic processes behind it mean it's almost certainly poop!

  16. #16

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Definitely! What part of town are you in?

  17. #17
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    chrisbar1104's Avatar
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    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    I reside right around Byron Center, but I'm usually floating around GVSU as a student.
    "The most beautiful sea hasnít been crossed yet. The most beautiful child hasnít grown up yet. The most beautiful days we havenít seen yet. And the most beautiful words I wanted to tell you... I havenít said yetÖ"
    -Nazim Hikmet Ran

  18. #18

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Dear CJKemp, I'm thinking of buying some ambergris from a guy in New Zealand, but how do I know that it's real? Or that it's of any quality. The smallest amount costs about $100. Do you have any advice as to what questions to ask? How can quality be determined from a photo alone?

  19. #19

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Does ambergris ever appear on the beaches of the Pacific Northwest? We usually hear of it on Arabian beaches or in New Zealand. What about around Vancouver, Canada?

  20. #20

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Hmmm. There's really no guarantee. As with anything else, you take your chances. Do you have a name or website? I might know them. I might be more comfortable than the average person identifying it from a photo ... but even then, you really need to be able to handle it, feel its weight and smell it, etc.

    I'm guessing it would occasionally wash up around Vancouver. It washes ashore everywhere sperm whales are found, for a start. There are many many instances of it washing ashore in places people don't always connect with ambergris, like England and Wales, or the Florida coastline.

    You might know more about the prevailing ocean currents than me?

  21. #21

  22. #22

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Wow. Very impressive research work CK. But it tends to show that: NO, there's virtually no ambergris to be found in the Pacific Northwest. Those articles were from the 1940s and 50s. The coal harbour whaling station has long since been replaced by high-end condo towers.

  23. #23

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Oh yeah. I know. But the point with ambergris is that, when people find it, they don't shout about it. I just thought the articles were fun.

    Like I said, it depends on the prevailing currents. I know, for instance, that the Gulf Stream currents along the western coastline of South America -- Peru, for example -- really transport flotsam like ambergris north rapidly and it rarely washes ashore there. But I'm not sure about British Columbia. I'm not an oceanographer.

    I'd be really surprised if ambergris did NOT wash ashore there from time to time though. Really really surprised.

  24. #24

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris


  25. #25

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Sperm whales in BC ... not too common relative to other species, but definitely there: http://wildwhales.org/sperm-whale/

  26. #26

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    I'm still surprised it's poop. I've always thought it was the vomitous whale equivalent of a cat furball because of the beaks in it. Is whale poop one and the same thing, or do they have two sorts of poop? What scientific basis did you discover to determine that? Asked with genuine interest, and without any accusatory intentions.

  27. #27

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Don't worry! I certainly wouldn't mind accusatory intentions.

    Yes, so poop or vomit. All the evidence -- and there's quite a bit -- suggests poop. Sperm whales eat about a ton of squid a day and can't digest the beaks. Like ruminants, sperm whales have several stomachs, or more correctly I suppose, several stomach chambers. It seems that sperm whales probably void or vomit up the non-digestible material. But this isn't ambergris, and isn't anything like it. In just a few instances (an estimated 1% of sperm whales), the durable beaks make it through the stomachs and into the small intestine where they chafe and irritate the gut lining. The whales starts to bind up the beaks with a cholesterol-rich secretion, which really resembles sticky poop, which forms concretions of beaks.

    If you've ever smelled extremely fresh ambergris, it smells and looks just like sheep dung. There's absolutely no question of where it came from. It's poop. Robert Clarke, the cetologist, who just died last year and wrote the only really detailed and considered scientific article on ambergris classified it as a coprolite -- or hardened dung.

    Even as early as the 1797 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, whalers described how they searched a whale for ambergris ... basically, they made a large cut in the carcass, by the anus, and then carefully and slowly worked their way north, toward the stomach, until they either found ambergris, or didn't. I saw a large piece of ambergris in New Zealand, in the national museum in Wellington, and met the man who had cut it from a dead, stranded whale.

    There's really no doubt to me regarding what it is and where it comes from. I sort of think of it in human terms ... if you're sick and you have a gastrointestinal problem, anything in the stomach will come back up, but anything that makes it past the pyloric sphincter and into the small intestine ... well, it's only got one direction to go in.

    Hope this helps. It's all in the book!

  28. #28

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Dear Christopher. Perhaps you can help me. I've made a successful ambergris tincture but I want to make ambergris oil. Do you know how I'd proceed? Thanks Jim Peterson

  29. #29

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Hey Jim,

    I'm sorry, that's not something I really know how to do. I'm not a perfumer but a biologist and a journalist. I'm betting you could find someone here online who knows how to do it though. Good luck with it!

    And how is the tincture? Any good?

    --ck

  30. #30

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Dear Christopher. Thanks for your response. The tincture has very little aroma but I'm sure it's a good tincture as it leaves a waxy residue that itself has a faint odor. I'm hoping that aging it will bring out more aroma.

  31. #31

    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Sounds good!

  32. #32
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    SherpaPsy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

    Only took a moment to decide to buyt this, having a renewed interest in scent and a bit of a scientific bent of mind...looking for ward to reading on my Kindle. Thanks!

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