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    Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris (Hardback) By (author) Christopher Kemp

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    DescriptionPreternaturally 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 simply be 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, wind-swept 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 not only covers these precious gray lumps and those who covet them, but also 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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  • Full bibliographic data for Floating Gold

    Title
    Floating Gold
    Subtitle
    A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris
    Authors and contributors
    By (author) Christopher Kemp
    Physical properties
    Format: Hardback
    Number of pages: 232
    Width: 152 mm
    Height: 229 mm
    Thickness: 18 mm
    Weight: 431 g
    Language
    English
    ISBN
    ISBN 13: 9780226430362
    ISBN 10: 0226430367
    Classifications

    B&T Book Type: NF
    BIC E4L: SCI
    Nielsen BookScan Product Class 3: S7.9T
    B&T Modifier: Region of Publication: 01
    B&T Modifier: Academic Level: 05
    BIC subject category V2: PSVW73
    B&T Modifier: Subject Development: 01
    Libri: I-HP
    BISAC V2.8: HIS037000
    Ingram Subject Code: HP
    B&T General Subject: 710
    BISAC V2.8: NAT020000, SCI034000
    Warengruppen-Systematik des deutschen Buchhandels: 14660
    BIC subject category V2: PSVD
    B&T Approval Code: A54300300
    LC subject heading:
    B&T Merchandise Category: UP
    BISAC V2.8: SCI013040, SCI039000
    B&T Approval Code: A63705040
    DC22: 333.95/95, 333.9595
    DC23: 599.547
    LC classification: QD331 .K457 2012
    LC subject heading: ,
    Edition statement
    New ed.
    Illustrations note
    12 colour plates, 12 halftones
    Publisher
    The University of Chicago Press
    Imprint name
    University of Chicago Press
    Publication date
    15 May 2012
    Publication City/Country
    Chicago, IL
    Author Information
    Christopher Kemp is a molecular biologist who currently lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with his wife and two sons. He has worked as a columnist for Cincinnati CityBeat, and his science writing has appeared on Salon.
    Review quote
    "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"