The box contains one ichthyosaur vertebra soap, wrapped in tissue paper sealed with a Mount House logo sticker. An information card with a drawing by Jo Witney or Whitby is included. There are three cards available, one is included at random.
The soap is made from natural ingredients using the cold process method and scented with essential oils.
Ichthyosaurs were marine reptiles that looked a bit like a cross between a dolphin and a swordfish. They swam deep down in the Early Jurassic seas feeding upon other reptiles, fish, and invertebrates such as belemnites. The fossilised vertebra used to make the mould for this soap is from an approximately 190 million-year-old temnodontosaurus, which means the cutting-tooth ichthyosaur. This was a genus common to the Whitby area. Like all ichthyosaurs, it had massive, 20 cm diameter eyes, and this particular temnodentosaurus would have been about 4 m long. The vertebra has come from the chunky end of the tail where it functioned with the strong tail muscles to enable swift, powerful swimming movements. You may be able to see the kink at the end of the tail in the skeleton drawing. When the first fossilised skeletons were found this was thought to be a deformity or injury until all the later finds showed the same kink and it was realised it indicates the start of the tail fin. Carried by a glacier 100 km down the coast from Whitby to Holderness, it was deposited when the iced melted at the end of the Ice Age 12,000 years ago and then found relatively recently. It makes a special soap to hold in your hand and imagine the extraordinary life of the fierce temnodontosaurs all those millions of years ago. It wears down to a nice flat disc.
The moulds are handmade, as is the soap using natural ingredients. In addition to oils and butters, it contains nutrient-rich bladderwrack seaweed and essential oils.
Two scents are available: Rosemary (with a little cedarwood), Lavender (also with a little cedar wood), chosen because they are a reminder of the garden at Mount House.
The beige and black soaps contain bladderwrack seaweed. The black soap has additional black clay and charcoal. Black soap takes a bit of getting used to as it produces greyish suds, so avoid use with white facecloths.
Keeping the soap dry and drained between uses prolong its lifespan and keeps it looking nice, too.