By Kate Moore
The Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM) is partnering with local author and scientist, Christopher Kemp to bring his book Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris to the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s Curiosity Shop.
Kemp will be in the main foyer of the Museum in front of the Curiosity Shop on Tuesday, March 21, from 4 – 7 p.m. Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris will be available for visitors to purchase and have signed by Kemp.
Christopher Kemp lives in Grand Rapids and works as a scientist. He has a personal connection to the Whales: Giants of the Deep exhibit, as the author of the book Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris. His book explores the entertaining and lively history of ambergris, a rare secretion produced only by sperm whales, and it’s fascinating use in perfume. Kemp’s book also contains images from the very same specimen of ambergris that is included in the exhibit.
Kemp’s journey begins with an encounter on a New Zealand beach with a giant lump of faux ambergris—determined after much excitement to nothing more exotic than lard—that inspires a comprehensive quest to seek out ambergris and its story. He takes us from the wild, rocky New Zealand coastline to Stewart Island, a remote, windswept island in the southern seas, to Boston and Cape Cod, and back again. Along the way, he tracks down the secretive collectors and traders who populate the clandestine modern-day ambergris trade.
Floating Gold is a history that covers not only these precious gray lumps and those who covet them, but presents a highly informative account of the natural history of whales, squid, ocean ecology, and even a history of the perfume industry. Kemp’s obsessive curiosity is infectious, and eager readers will feel as though they have stumbled upon a precious bounty of this intriguing substance.
Tickets are currently on sale for the Whales: Giants of the Deep exhibition, which runs through April 15. Members will be $2 per ticket, and non-member adults are $13, non-member children are $8. Admission to Whales: Giants of the Deep includes general admission to the Museum. Further discounts to Kent County residents. Tickets can be purchased by visiting grpm.org/Whales or calling 616-929-1700.