Connections: Atlas Obscura Edition


15 Responses to “Connections: Atlas Obscura Edition”

  1. NidSquid says:

    Nicely done!

    I LOVE the Atlas Obscura, I LOVED Connections and I LOVE all your posts!

  2. angusm says:

    Speaking of connections, by an odd minor coincidence that is meaningful only to me, on Friday I saw the first whale I’ve ever seen – a sperm whale. On Saturday I attended presentations by Olaf Blaaw and Kat Bolstead, who helped to dissect the squid caught by the San Aspiring (see And today I get to read a post on BoingBoing about the Te Papa squid and sperm whales.

    Incidentally, one of Saturday’s speakers reported that squid now make up an increasingly large part of the sperm whale’s diet, as the fish that they would otherwise eat have been hugely overfished. This will presumably lead to more beaks in whale stomachs, leading to more irritation and thus more ambergris, which may be good news for the perfume industry. Of course, as large squid like m. hamiltoni also feed on many of the same species, the decline in fish stocks will hit them too. When the squid population crashes, there won’t be much left for the toothed whales to eat. In the end it may be the commercial fishing industry, rather than the whalers, that drives sperm whales into extinction.

  3. 3.14chan says:

    SednaBoo, there is what leavesofjoy said and more one thing.

    Elephants doesn’t expel ivory, this is part of their body, ambergris is naturaly expeled during all whale life. It’s like kill a earthworm to extract humus.

  4. Tom Hale says:

    I stopped reading at Connections – this is one of my favorite shows of all time. Last time I checked, you can watch some of the shows on – yep, I just checked. If you haven’t seen them, please do yourself a favor and check it out.

  5. leavesofjoy says:

    “It’s like kill a earthworm to extract humus.”

    Seriously, that’s where the stuff comes from? I’m never eating that again, and I think I’ll skip the baba ghanoush, too, just to be safe…..;)


  6. 3.14chan says:

    In perfume industry there is a lot of weird sources.

    Seems like stink things when diluted smell good.

  7. 3.14chan says:

    #12 leavesofjoy, I was talking about earthworm humus (vermicompost) and not about the dish hummus

    earthworm humus (vermicompost)

    hummus also spelled hamos, houmous, hommos, hommus, hummos, hummous or humus.

    Learn the difference It could save your life ;)

    I know that it was a joke, but better make it clear to avoid the creation of more hoaxes like the one that said that McDonald’s burger is made of earthworms.

  8. SednaBoo says:

    Wouldn’t this be banned under some whaling convention? Or does everyone get it from Japan, Iceland, Norway, or aboriginal tribes?

  9. The Lizardman says:

    Cue the futurama theme song and go…

  10. 3.14chan says:

    #2 why would they ban whale excrement?

    “In the United States, importing, buying, or selling ambergris — including ambergris that had washed ashore — was considered a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. In 2001 this ruling was overturned, and ambergris was deemed not to be a byproduct of the whaling industry, since the whale expels this substance naturally.”

    You don’t need even to get near a whale to get ambergis.

  11. dole says:

    I *KNEW* that reading all those Encyclopedia Brown books would one day pay off! TAKE THAT, MOM!

  12. SednaBoo says:

    3.14chan @4: Wouldn’t that pose the same issues as, say, ivory? You don’t have to kill the animals, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t get killed for sake of convenience.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately, what the poster has done is not what Burke did on Connections. Burke took a problem that humans tried to solve, and then showned how the solution to that problem had unexpected future uses, or how in searching for a solution, the searcher inadvertently came upon a solution for another problem.

  14. leavesofjoy says:

    Sednaboo @6,
    Actually, you couldn’t kill the whale for the sake of convenience for obtaining Ambergris, as Ambergris obtained straight from the whale is not suitable for use in perfumery.

    Right after it comes out of the whale, either naturally or via whaling, it is sticky, tarry, and smells like feces and vomit. It has none of the subtle notes or fixative qualities that are needed for its use in perfume.

    Only after Ambergris has floated at sea for years, or even better, decades, does it acquire usefulness in perfume. Despite its weird origin and sometimes funky overtones, properly aged natural Ambergris is one of the most amazing scents you can imagine.

    I have a large chunk of it found by Ambergris hunters on a beach in New Zealand, and the smell is like skin, musk, and sea air combined. It’s a beautiful, sexy smell that goes with pretty much any other scent and enhances it and makes it last longer.

    Fresh Ambergris doesn’t fit that bill at all, and despite all the misinformation about it, perfumers know this and there is no market that would support whale killing for Ambergris.


  15. apoxia says:

    The colossal squid’s eyes are 20 to 30 centimeters in diameter!

    Last year in New Zealand a strange fatty substance washed up on a North Island beach. The media reported it could be ambergris and dozens of people, descended and took the chunk apart. Due to my previous job at a company that exports animal byproducts, I was immediately able to tell that what had washed up was the contents of a drum of tallow. It was even drum shaped. Now tallow is not a pleasant substance, especially in an animal grade unprocessed form. I had much satisfaction watching crazy greedy people haul away lumps of smelly tallow!

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