Floating Gold - A Natural (and Unnatural) History of 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.


Heard a bit about this before. I think some does wash up here in NZ. Thanks for the spur to do some research!

Iv heard about that bloke (yank )seemly he spent a fear bit of time on stewart island talking to the locals , looking etc etc then he left & wrote the book spilling the beans on there spots, seemly he got a lot of hate mail …so the book could be worth a read !! .

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I remember some washed up in Otago not all that many years ago - I have seen ‘strange stuff’ on the beach and wondered what it was BUT it looked too evil for me to ponder over to the extent of pushing my fingers into it…yep probably walked past a fortune…in fact it would not surprise me if a lot of people have passed it by on the beaches and never given it a second look

.How to identify ambergris, ambergris shape, colour, size and smell, ambergris test

The only reason I am sharing this haha is because everyone is going to go running up and down the beaches looking for it while dreaming of millions of dollars while I go around with my metal detector and no competition.


Yep…its found all over the shores of NZ as far as I know,we get it here in Wairarapa,Wellington area,looks and floats like pumice…some have trained their dogs to stiff it out like a K9 metal detector…haha.
It’s hard to find but if you find one …there must be more…at $22 per gram not a bad way of earning a few coin while at the coast.

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Pretty sure I’ve seen some as a kid and just kicked it. lol

Heard a story about a girl finding a rough diamond on a beach.

Also keep your eye out for gold.
Gold Coast Nuggets

Moa bones, fossils, kauri gum, even messages in bottles that have been washing around the ocean for a century.
Keep your eyes peeled.

Hi Guys… I’m an Ambergris Broker here in NZ, i also look for Ambergris in NZ & oversea’s as well as being involved in some other more commercially sensitive aspects of Ambergris in the perfume world, and i also look for (sinking!) gold as more of a hobby.
Floating Gold is a good read, I know Chris Kemp (i actually sent him his first piece of 'gris before his book came out) pretty well, but if you’re expecting a manual on how to look for it then forget it - this is a book on the history and uses, but still very interesting, although theres things about ambergris that i know that Chris would proberly never be privy to.
Ambergrising is a pretty secretive industry (a few of us were approached by Discovery Channel a couple of years ago resulting in a Pilot, but in the end it never flew) with most people that dont know anything about it wanting to talk all day about it, and those those know lots about it not wanting to talk at all!
However I can be pretty open about some aspects of it as i cant be on every beach in NZ and as a Broker i would rather someone find it that is a friend than a stranger out of my loop.
For example i told a host i met in an Air B&B in Bristol UK about it last year, showed him some and a few months later he was in Iceland and found an awesome piece!
Its certainly a very interesting substance, with a few thousand years of human use and understanding, and having many uses in food, alcohol (and yes, even smokable!) but its rarer than rocking horse shit - only made by Sperm Whales, and only by Males, and only by BIG males, there maybe a few hundred whales on the whole planet that make it.
But, much like gold, its a great excuse for getting out there into some beautiful remote places and blending work & madventures together til ya cant tell the difference.
*Attached is a little know article for further reading + some photos of some NZ grizzle of mine + a little website of mine for mates with some photos of some missions.
Happy Hunting
(gold 'n gris that is)

Ambergris-the-Search-for-Its-Origin.pdf (2.6 MB)



and here’s a good Podcast from Kemp:


Thanks Matty for the photos,podcast and website,all very interesting and just a few more clues to go on in the pursuit of this elusive (floating gold).
Great to see all your adventures down the southern isles too…very cool!
I’ll be combing my local Wairarapa south coast even if it does take a life time to find…cheers Mal

@mattybaba thanks for all the extra info, finding the whole ambergris scene quite interesting and intriguing!

sweet runner Gavin, I’ve all.ways enjoyed ya posts, so cheers back at ya! (i’m one of those critters who feels i got way more to learn than share when it comes to gold) … feel free to hit me with any questions regarding gris if ya got any burning questions!

Nice one Mal… get out there and have a look for sure - ya certainly cant spot it from the couch!.. try and find those spots on the coast that are concentrating ocean flotsam (pumice, fishing floats & ropes, etc) to maximise ya time… i always say to spend 90% of your time on 10% / the most intersesting parts of the coast… creekheads can be good spots, but also more prone to river driftwood / visual pollution… indentations in flat bits of coast… anything that can catch stuff… but yeah, ocean flotsam are ya best indications for the rare chance there may be some gris about…happy hunting!

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Thats a great tip Matty,just like gold you need to concentrate efforts in the most likely places,might have to get the family another dog,one with a good nose,unlike my last dog who would refuse to get off the couch…lol.Thanks again

I spent 6mths working in the Chathams in the mid nineties and used to find whale vertebrae in the dunes near Waitangi…if only I’d known what else to look for!!!


Hey sorry i haven’t logged on to Paydirt for ages and missed ya post - yep the Chathams defo gets a little gris!


Be worth a few quid…


Nice chunk of ambergris found by someone else.