Animals: Ambergris

Out for a stroll on Bolinas Beach, north of the Golden Gate, one afternoon last fortnight went Alf Harrodon, 33-year-old radio operator. Striding along with head in air he stumbled on something soft. Looking down, he saw a large mass of greyish stuff, mottled and opaque. In his hands it felt and smelled like limburger cheese.

Never in his life had Alf Harrodon seen ambergris, which begins as a secretion in the bowels of a sick sperm whale, ends as a base for precious perfumes. But he had been raised on the coast of...

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