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Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris [Kindle Edition]

Christopher Kemp

Kindle-Preis: EUR 10,74 Inkl. MwSt. und kostenloser drahtloser Lieferung über Amazon Whispernet

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"A compelling narrative, a detective story, and a wonderful window into history and obsession, Floating Gold has struck a rich oceanic seam. With its mixture of scientific rigor, evocative travelogue, and eccentric personalities, Kemp's book finally uncovers the secrets of this elusive and extraordinary stuff. His book lingers like the smell of ambergris itself." -Philip Hoare, author of The Whale"


“Preternaturally hardened whale dung” is not the first image that comes to mind when we think of perfume, otherwise a symbol of glamour and allure. But the key ingredient that makes the sophisticated scent linger on the skin is precisely this bizarre digestive by-product—ambergris. Despite being one of the world’s most expensive substances (its value is nearly that of gold and has at times in history been triple it), ambergris is also one of the world’s least known. But with this unusual and highly alluring book, Christopher Kemp promises to change that by uncovering the unique history of ambergris.

A rare secretion produced only by sperm whales, which have a fondness for squid but an inability to digest their beaks, ambergris is expelled at sea and floats on ocean currents for years, slowly transforming, before it sometimes washes ashore looking like a nondescript waxy pebble. It can appear almost anywhere but is found so rarely, it might as well appear nowhere. Kemp’s journey begins with an encounter on a New Zealand beach with a giant lump of faux ambergris—determined after much excitement to nothing more exotic than lard—that inspires a comprehensive quest to seek out ambergris and its story. He takes us from the wild, rocky New Zealand coastline to Stewart Island, a remote, windswept island in the southern seas, to Boston and Cape Cod, and back again. Along the way, he tracks down the secretive collectors and traders who populate the clandestine modern-day ambergris trade.

Floating Gold is an entertaining and lively history that covers not only these precious gray lumps and those who covet them, but presents a highly informative account of the natural history of whales, squid, ocean ecology, and even a history of the perfume industry. Kemp’s obsessive curiosity is infectious, and eager readers will feel as though they have stumbled upon a precious bounty of this intriguing substance.


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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.4 von 5 Sternen  31 Rezensionen
15 von 16 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Risky Business! 1. Mai 2012
Von Nadine - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
I found this book to be fascinating! The secrecy and clandestine nature of the history of such a rare commodity as authentic ambergris is present to this very day. The author of this fine, small tome has grazed the edges of veiled threat by pursuing information about the places and people who hunt for beach-cast ambergris, and his inquiry into this cloistered `club' was met with the most emphatic ostracism and silence.

Since most people will never see or smell ambergris, or even care that it exists, it's not surprising that the subject has so little in-depth and reliable documentation. Do many people even know that it had value as a gourmet condiment throughout history, and was/is one of the gems of the perfume industry? Most mention of it seems to be anecdotal in nature. And because there is so much confusion about even identifying it, and obtaining even the smallest piece is a trial of some expense and trust, it really has fallen into the realm of myth, rather than reality.

Mr. Kemp, inflamed by a sensational local New Zealand newscast, tenaciously pursued a way to satisfy his own curiosity about this product of Sperm whale excrement, and this adventure, while undoubtedly intensely frustrating at times, is really worth reading about. He encounters many closed doors and is given the cold shoulder the majority of the time, but his sincerity was apparent to some, and they allowed him to step into the back room of museums and personal collections to analyze the properties that most of us would like to understand about ambergris, and he punctuates this with peoples subjective perceptions of how the different grades of it smell and feel.

I think this book was sorely needed and Mr. Kemp did a splendid job fleshing out some of the reality of the back-breaking and risky business of the ambergris trade. He does this with the perfect balance of empirical evidence and a sense of humor. BTW, where can I get a bottle of 'Eau de Christopher Kemp?
11 von 12 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Unexpected gold 29. April 2012
Von Stephen - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
I have to admit that I expected Floating Gold by C Kemp to end up on my coffee table, quickly and mostly unread. Like any other book on natural history or marine biology, I expected a reference and catalogue of interesting pictures about a curious and often forgotten or misunderstood product of sperm whales. However, I began skimming the first chapter early one Saturday morning. A few hours later, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my original expectations were completely wrong. The book actually tells a story, and one I found difficult to put on the coffee table. Not only of Kemp's education and intense search for this curious byproduct of sperm-whale digestive problems, but also of people, misguided treaties and laws, history, greed and generosity. Kemp skillfully and simply covers the complex issues of molecular chemistry around the value of ambergris -- and it's role in the perfume industry. Even before I finished the book, I wanted to feel and smell this floating gold for myself... If you have any interest in natural history, marine biology or even an excellent narrative, Floating Gold will be an expected valuable read that will stimulate your curiosity and might make you search for the ambergris yourself.
7 von 7 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A great read 8. Mai 2012
Von Ross L. Urrere - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
This is a wonderful book that will save you many hundreds of hours of research if you are at all interested in Ambergris. It is also a very well done story which is quite fun to read. I use Ambergris in incense and perfumes that I make and was thrilled to finally find something that gives some great insight into the scientific as well as hunt for ambergris on the beaches. For a substance that is so sought after by some very influential luxury companies there has been very little published on the subject so this is a treat.
6 von 6 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen White gold 19. Mai 2012
Von koti - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
A really enjoyable read of a rare product with a rich history. From the beaches of New Zealand to the windswept coast of Massachusetts we are taken on a journey for a rare glimpse of a clandestine industry. The eccentric charachters involved in this trade are described in great detail as are the exotic locales like Stewart Island and the cold climes of Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand. Highly recommended to be enjoyed with a good cup of coffee overlooking the ocean, I know my next beach trip will be enhanced by this book!
5 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Hit the beaches!!!! 13. Mai 2012
Von Searcher - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Chris Kemp has written an exceptionally entertaining book, giving a first hand account of the pursuit of one of the rarest and strangest substances known to man, peppered with anecdotes and historical references, shining a spotlight on the international trade, the colourful characters involved and the hard won fortunes that can be made.. It will make your next trip to the beach, possibly the most lucrative trip of your life!! Enjoy
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