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Ly Son Island to restore giant whale skeleton

The central island district of Ly Son, 30km off the coast of central Quang Ngai Province, is planning to preserve the largest whale skeleton ever found off its coast later this year.

Vice Chairman of the island district, Le Van Ninh, said the restoration project and a new exhibition centre would be built at Tan Temple (Temple of the Whale) with investment of 14 billion VND (620,000 USD) to house the skeleton.

Ninh said the 24m-long skeleton – believed to be the longest found in Vietnam – was buried in the fishing village of An Hai nearly 300 years ago. It had been well preserved at the temple, but some parts of the skeleton had been damaged over the years due to a lack of restoration technology.

He said the whale became stranded and died on the beach, so locals buried its corpse and built a temple at the site.

The ribs stretch up to 4m with heavy vertebrae, Ninh said.

The theory is the whale died off the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands and drifted to Ly Son Island.

Subsequently, local fishermen excavated the skeleton and placed it in a temple, where it is an object of worship. The Lang Tan Temple has been recognised as a national historical site.

Whale temples, known as Lang Ong, are often seen in coastal fishing villages, reflecting an old fishermen’s belief in the whale’s power to guard their lives at sea.

Fishermen also express respect for the giant ocean mammals when they find them dead, and perform a respectful ceremony.

They build a bamboo basket to carry them to a final resting place in a temple. They believe this dignified burial and worship confer luck on all fishermen who still make their living from the sea.

A skeleton of a 15 metre-long sperm whale has also been restored and exhibited on Phu Quy Island, Binh Thuan Province.-VNA/VNP