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Whale's Treasure

Episode:54Te Papa Collection:Natural Environment

Suggested curriculum levels:3 – 5

Curriculum connections:English: Listening, Reading, and Viewing, Social Sciences: Economic World

Description:Just what is ambergris? Whale specialist Anton Van Helden dismisses the fakes and uncovers the real deal.

Questions for students

  1. What is ambergris? Explain in your own words where it comes from and where it is found.
  2. Ambergris is a good example of the changing value of natural resources. How was it once used and valued? What has changed? How is it now valued?
  3. Many whale products that were used in the past have been replaced by other natural or synthetic materials. What does this mean for economies that rely or relied on the old or the new materials? Use the 'Then and now' response template to record whale products from the past, and the aspects that have changed over time.
  4. In general, is it better to use natural or synthetic materials to produce goods? Give one example and explain your reasons. What are the economic impacts of using a specific natural or synthetic product? What other impacts need to be considered?
  5. Is ambergris-hunting at the beach a worthwhile activity? Why or why not? Give evidence from the Tale for your answer. How could you tell if you had found a real piece of ambergris?

Related templates:

Then and now