You wrote a whole book about whale poop?

Guilty, as charged.



Well, who knows? I really felt compelled to write it. Ambergris deserved a biography of it own, and one didn’t exist. It was the only subject I’ve ever encountered that became more interesting and strange the more I read about it.

On Long Beach

Ambergris is an extraneous Substance, that swims in the Sea, and is swallowed as a Delicacy by the Fishes, and voided by them again undigested. It seldom stays long enough, to be found in their Bodies. – Caspar Neumann, On Ambergris (1729)

I tell people that they’ve got to sniff a lot of dog droppings before they find a bit of ambergris.    – Interview with amateur historian Lloyd Esler, New Zealand (2010)

It’s a rainy afternoon on Long Beach. I am standing beneath a mackerel sky, holding a strange little object in my hand. It’s a pale green-gray color, like a barely steeped cup of green tea, and it looks like a potato. I hold it up to the gray light and examine it more closely in the rain. Sitting in the palm of my hand, it feels light and spongy.