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These two objects below were found on the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand on seperate occasions but within 5km of each other.

They both had a strong and unique, neither pleasant nor displeasing scent to them which has since faded.

The larger of the two is slowly shedding/crumbling small white clumps, presumably as it continues to dry up, a little lump of a resin like material has also become dislodged. The smaller of the larger two lumps has stayed fully intact.

Are they ambergris?

How can an amateur determine if they are or not? What else could they be?

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This is unlikely to be ambergris. As I understand it, ambergris tends to darken with age and be a waxy substance with a low (~60 C/140 F) melting temperature. and should melt a little in your hands to give a waxy feel. The smell should be animal- or fecal-like.

Your last image shows a crystalline substance with obvious fracture planes, which means that it is some sort of solid.

I think this is almost certainly the resin from a species of coniferous tree. As you are on the East Coast of the North Island, it could well be pieces of *Agathis australis (Kauri) gum/resin, especially so if you are in Northland or the Coromandel. Kauri are only found about as far south as the bottom of the Coromandel/Kaimai range in the East and down to around Kawhia in the West.

If it is Kauri gum, it will be hard and have a pinetree-like scent, especially when scratched. You should also be able to polish it with turpentine. Kauri gum is semi-fossilized and a form of amber.

Auckland Museum has some pieces of Kauri gum that resemble what you have, and you can find this image on Wikimedia Commons:

Kauri gum

Auckland Museum, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Or this one from Te Ara (The Encyclopedia of New Zealand):

Te Ara Kauri gum

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting, I shall gently warm some up and see what happens 🤓 $\endgroup$ Mar 1 at 6:42
  • $\begingroup$ I don't have very good temperature control, but it does melt under a heated knife. However I read that kauri gum also readily melts ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ $\endgroup$ Mar 2 at 4:54

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