ambergris    And, all of a sudden, in between the stench the dead whale was giving off, a cloud of light perfume opened up.

–I’ve found it! I’ve found it! –Stubb shouted–. Here’s the bag!

Drop the hoe, put both hands in the holes and start taking out handfuls of that old soap and perfumed fat which looks like rotten cheese. The dust was yellowish. It was grey amber, a substance which you can buy for a pound an ounce at any chemist’s. Some handfuls came out, but one bit fell into the sea. And perhaps more could have been taken out if Captain Ahab hadn’t given the job to under-age people. He made Stubb leave the dead whale and climb onto the ship.

Grey amber is highly valued by perfume-makers for making luxury candles, soap and creams. It’s also used in Turkish cookery. Would the people who use it ever have imagined that it started off in a sick whale’s belly? Well, that’s the truth. The whalers know that the French from the Bouton de Rose do not know the value of what they have in their hands and Stubb’s trick earned the crew of the Pequod some extra money.

Moby Dick, Herman Melville
Melville talks about grey amber’s value when the sailors in the whaler Pequod’s boat fool the French on the Bouton de Rose who have taken it out of the whale. We don’t know if you’ve looked inside the whales which have arrived on our coast in recent years, but it looks like there´s nobody as clever and wise as the people of the Pequod tripulation.

The grey amber which grows in whales’ bellies is a grey-yellow substance which looks like wax and has a special smell. Paradoxically, this thing which comes from the sea smells like the earth. And there is another particularity to it. Grey amber’s smell is unique. It is not possible to completely copy its smell. Whales build up this special substance to help them to swallow tons and tons of fish, muscles, cephalochordata and such like. Although sailor Stubb took it out of a whale, it is normally found on the surface of the sea or on the coast. And, knowing how grey amber comes to be, it is easy to imagine that it is not
easy to come by. Since whale hunting was forbidden there is no sure supply of grey amber and, consequently, natural grey amber’s price has risen. Although it is forbidden in most countries, there is a black market for it and some perfume companies secretly use it. Perfume companies have long used artificial smell stabilisers and enhancers.

Trading in grey amber is highly clandestine. Companies deny buying grey amber, but whenever any quantity of this substance appears on the black market it gets snapped up right away. Three years ago sea currents opened up in a very unusual way along with new seekers of grey amber who knew the whales’ routes. Ross Sherman and John James Vodanocich ended up in court in New
Zealand because they had wanted to kill each other. The former had wanted to run the latter over, and the latter attacked the former with a metal pipe. At court, however, neither of them said why they had wanted to kill each other. Later on the investigators found out that it had been because of 40 kilos of grey amber found on a beach.