Floating Gold

Floating Gold : The Search for Ambergris, The Most Elusive Natural Substance in the World

3.65 (258 ratings by Goodreads)
  • Paperback
By (author) 

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Description

A fascinating modern hunt for a treasure from a most surprising source - a whale's stomach.

Journalist and biologist Christopher Kemp discovers, after reading an odd news report, a hidden world of money, intrigue and amazing wealth. A lump of something turns up on a beach in NZ, the lump so strange it may well have come from out of space. But it's not a dead alien, it's ambergris. Ambergris is a by-product of sperm whales, used for centuries as a perfume, medicine and aphrodisiac. It appears on beaches all over the world and depending on what state it's in, can be mistaken for all manner of things. For those in the know, it's an amazing source of wealth - ambergris trades for US$20 a gram, which is nearly as much as gold but it's harder to find and it cannot be mined. Christopher Kemp travels from the shores of NZ, to the Smithsonian and New Nedford Whaling museum; he meets amateurs, professional hunters, scientists, elusive vendors who traffic ambergris, people who won't confess to have found any, and strangers denying what they are looking for. As he discovers more about ambergris' origins, its uses present day and historic, the outrageous lengths people have gone to find it and the intriguing efforts people go to in order to keep what they know about ambergris a secret, the more his infectious obsession grows.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 135 x 205 x 24mm | 330g
  • New South Wales, Australia
  • 0732291917
  • 9780732291914

Review quote

"Christopher Kemp holds no world records (well, except hands-down for the best book ever written about ambergris), but after a childhood in Birmingham he found himself at the University of Otago, on the South Island of New Zealand, where he began his obsessive quest for ambergris. . . .You probably haven't spent many sleepless nights wondering where ambergris comes from or what it smells like, but I know that "Floating Gold" will enchant and surprise you with its answers to these and countless other questions, and you will now be able to dazzle your uninformed friends who otherwise would know nothing about how faecal impactions and French perfume go together."--Richard Ellis "Times (UK) "
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About Christopher Kemp

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."
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Rating details

258 ratings
3.65 out of 5 stars
5 22% (57)
4 38% (98)
3 27% (70)
2 9% (23)
1 4% (10)
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