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Message #16128 of 18360  *NEW*
Let It Be Whale Petrified Vomit! Could Be Worth $300,000. Meet Me At The Beach To Collect Some!
12/18/06, 1:48pm (Last Edited: 12/20/06, 2:47pm)
Let It Be Whale Vomit, Not Just Sea Junk

The New York Times
MONTAUK, N.Y. (Dec. 18) — In this season of strange presents from relatives, Dorothy Ferreira got a doozy the other day from her 82-year-old sister in Waterloo, Iowa. It was ugly. It weighed four pounds. There was no receipt in the box.

inside she found what looked like a gnarled, funky candle but could actually be a huge hunk of petrified whale vomit worth as much as $18,000.

“I, the storied substance created in the intestines of a sperm whale and spewed into the ocean. Also called “whale’s pearl” or “floating gold,” ambergris is a rare and often valuable ingredient in fine perfumes.

“He told me, ‘Don’t let this out of your sight,’ ” Ms. Ferreira said.

She was soon summoned to show the thing at a town board meeting, after which a story in The Independent, a local newspaper, declared Ms. Ferreira the proud new owner of “heirloom whale barf.” Friends and neighbors flocked to her tchotchke-filled cottage overlooking Fort Pond Bay, the very shores where her sister, Ruth Carpenter, said she found the object in the mid-1950s.

Childless and never married, Ms. Ferreira bounced from job to job, most recently as a short-order cook at a local deli, and now lives on her Social Security income.

“If it really does have value, I’m not silly, of course I’d want to sell it,” Ms. Ferreira said as she looked out past her lace curtains and picket fence at the whitecaps on the bay. “This could be my retirement.”

After researching ambergris on the Internet, Ms. Ferreira’s neighbor, Joe Luiksic, advised, “Put it on eBay.” But endangered species legislation has made buying or selling the stuff illegal since the 1970s; a couple who found a large lump of ambergris valued at almost $300,000 on an Australian beach in January has had legal problems selling it.

“If I get locked up, will you bail me out?” Ms. Ferreira asked her friends.

Ambergris begins as a waxlike substance secreted in the intestines of some sperm whales, perhaps to protect the whale from the hard, indigestible “beaks” of giant squid it feeds upon. The whales expel the blobs, dark and foul-smelling, to float the ocean. After much seasoning by waves, wind, salt and sun, they may wash up as solid, fragrant chunks.

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