A college in Australia cleared its library last week due to a suspected gas leak – which turned out to just be a smelly fruit stinking up the campus. University of Canberra Library announced that a mysterious stench was permeating the building.
Shortly after the building was evacuated, the Library posted some humorous details about the incident on Facebook: "And we're open! Thanks to everyone for evacuating so quickly and safely — about 550 people left the building in under 6 minutes. Fortunately the suspected gas leak turned out to be a part of a durian — the offending fruit has now been removed."
For those unfamiliar with durian, that may be for the best. The spiky Southeast Asian fruit is banned from most public areas due to the horrendous smell it emits. Its tough exterior covers an edible fruit, but even before it's cracked open, the durian's stench can seep out.
Food writer Richard Sterling described durian's odor as a mix of "turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock," according to Smithsonian Magazine. "It can be smelled from yards away," Sterling wrote. Apparently, its scent can also mimic the smell of gasoline, which caused the precautionary library evacuation in Canberra.
But why does durian smell so bad? A study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry pinpointed 50 compounds in durian that could be responsible for the odor. Researchers found that it's not a single compound that causes the smell, but a combination of chemicals in the fruit. It appears all of the chemicals have their own unique properties, and combined they form the horrendous durian smell.
While the smell of durian can clear out an entire building, some people actually like the taste. Anthony Bourdain once tried durian and called it "indescribable, something you will either love or despise," the Smithsonian reports. "Your breath will smell as if you'd been French-kissing your dead grandmother," the late chef said.