Sperm Whale’s vomit or Ambergris, debunking the age-old mystery

Photo by Cameron Venti on Unsplash

About the incident

On 1st June 2021, some 35 fishermen spotted a sperm whale(Physeter macrocephalus) carcass near the Gulf of Aden. Inside the carcass, they found Ambergris worth $1.5 million (approx 11 crores). Ambergris is also commonly referred to as ‘Whale vomit’ or ‘Whale poop’ but this notion is not accepted by all. According to experts, this substance is produced inside the whale’s intestines and is not vomited out as a waste substance. It is used since ancient times but currently, it is used as an ingredient in expensive perfume manufacture. Before ascending deeper, let’s familiarize ourselves with a basic outline of a sperm whale.

Sperm Whales- Their name is just a facade

Photo by Snappy Shutters on Unsplash

Ambergris- Floating gold in the ocean


Formation- Whale vomit or Faecal matter

Sperm whale devours high amounts of cephalopods (eg- Cuttlefish, Squids), and most of the time the undigestable materials that could hinder the digestion are vomited out beforehand.

Application of this rare substance

Ambergris is an important constituent of perfumery believed to be whale vomit perfume. Ancient greeks used it for increasing the intoxication strength of wines. During the black death pandemic( Afro-Eurasia from 1346 to 1353), people rubbed Ambergris on their skin for protection from the plague.


Status of Whale conservation and Ambergis trade laws

Before whaling (an act of capturing/killing whales for oil, flesh, bone, etc) the population of whales was around 11 lakhs but it has now diminished to around 3 lakhs only. This practice was performed a decade ago on large scale but currently, there are different sets of laws for the regulation of collection and sales of Ambergris in different parts of the world.




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Mehak Khajuria

Mehak Khajuria


Former writer for science newspaper, completed my master’s in zoology and mostly write about science stuff, also tried my hand in poetries and short novels.