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Sunday, September 21, 2008

A mystery in this nation's capital

"Cheesy Lump Baffles Wellington"

A mystery object washed up on Wellington's south coast may not be cheese* but valuable ambergris, a fancy term for whale vomit.

Since Saturday, curious dogs at Breaker Bay have barked, circled and tasted the object, which is the size of a wheelie bin** and resembles brie. It has also come under constant attack from seagulls.

Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean said the council had been inundated with calls from people convinced that the large, grey, greasy block found at Breaker Bay is the much sought after and valuable ambergris, which is most commonly used in the manufacture of perfume.

Ambergris is an excretion whales produce in response to irritation caused by squid, which forms a large part of their diet. It washes up on beaches and is considered valuable because of its rarity and the uncertainty of supply.

More info here, because you're dying to know. I will keep you updated.

*It was previously thought that a large chuck of cheese fell off a passing ship. You read that correctly.
**trash barrel

Update: We may never know what the mysterious cheesy lump was. Once news broke of it possibly being valuable ambergris, locals rushed the beach and hauled off chunks. More info here.


hello gorgeous said...

So, if it's so valuable, why is it still sitting there? :-) Whale vomit. I had no idea.

hello gorgeous said...

P.S. Thanks for the link!

Raina said...

If it's not a rugby ball, a beer, or a sheep, Kiwis aren't interested.

And I'm guessing there is less ambergris sitting there than there was a few hours ago.

Raina said...

But I'm happy to report that even with all of the recent global financial volatility, New Zealand commodities markets are faring well.

Lamb is up to $25 an hour.

Cristin said...


Robin said...

The whole idea behind whale vomit being used in perfume grossed me out so of course I looked it up on Wikipedia and now am even more grossed out.

Oh, and I love the term "wheelie bin"! It sounds so much better (and less chore-like) than "trash can".

erin@designcrisis said...

I always thought whale vomit would be prettier.