If someone asked me what the most valuable substance on the planet is, I’d probably say something like platinum or gold – I really don’t have any idea – but I definitely wouldn’t have said whale poop.
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Apparently this is true though as the stuff can fetch $7000 a pound as it’s the essential ingredient used in in something that’s used every day by billions of people all over the planet. Ambergis -the scientific name for whale poop – is the vital ingredient in perfume and cologne, which is probably why it’s always so expensive when you’ve pissed your girlfriend off and have to buy he something like that.
Here’s a quick video as to why it’s so expensive, with a bit of a transcript of the important parts below it as well:
Ambergris is 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 poop, but scientists think it likely exits the same way.
One way or another, a big boulder of ambergris is released into the ocean and then floats for decades, or who knows how long.”
In that time, the mass transforms from a sticky, dung-like substance into a hard, gray chunk. And this is what perfumers covet. For one, it contains a unique chemical called ambrein. It’s a fixative, which means it makes other smells in perfume last longer. But ambergris is also valued for something … more surprising: it’s smell.
It’s a bouquet of 20-30 chemical compounds that each have their own odor profile. One will smell sort of like mushrooms, one will smell a little bit like tobacco, one smells sort of like poop, one smells sort of like grass and hay.
The scents from ambergris make up the foundation of a fine fragrance, bottles selling for $500 or more. Scientists don’t know why but only ~1% of sperm whales produce ambergris so it’s incredibly rare, that’s another obvious reason for the cost.
Well, every day really is a school day and here’s something I never thought I would ever say or care about: I really wish whales would poop more as it would make my life significantly cheaper.
Although it’s also kinda gross to think that people are constantly dousing themselves in whale poop every day, all the time. That’s rank – maybe I’ll just stop wearing cologne or stop washing as well. Probably trace elements of whale poop in soap and shampoo as well. Might as well just cut it all out.
For more poop, check out this short documentary about a professional poop diver. Outrageous.