Ambergris is a rare substance that has been highly valued for thousands of years as an ingredient in perfume and pharmaceuticals. Ambergris has a scent all its own—derived from its chemical component ambrein—that it imparts to popular perfumes such as Chanel No. 5. Ambergris originates in the intestines of male sperm whales after they dine on squid, whose hard, pointy beaks abrade the whales’ innards. Scientists believe that the whales protect themselves by secreting a fatty substance in their intestines to surround the beaks. Eventually the animals cast out a huge lump, up to hundreds of pounds at a time. No one has ever seen a sperm whale excrete ambergris, although it is assumed the voiding takes place as fecal excretion. Viscous, black, stinky blocks of freshly expelled ambergris float on the ocean’s surface. Sun, air and salt water oxidize the mass, and water continually evaporates. It hardens, breaks into smaller chunks and eventually becomes grey and waxy, embedded with small black squid beaks. The weathered chunks exude a sweet, earthy aroma likened to tobacco, pine or mulch. Though the value of any given chunk depends on how much time it has spent aging, the average selling price is around $560 per ounce.