Ly Son Island to restore VN’s biggest whale skeleton

Nga Do
The central island district of Ly Son plans to restore a whale skeleton and an exhibition centre for whale skeletons with an investment of VND10 billion

Vice Chairwoman of the district’s People’s Committee, Pham Thi Huong, told Viet Nam News the restoration project will be built at Lang Tan Temple (Temple of the Whale) in the commune of An Vinh on Ly Son Island.

According to elderly residents of the commune, the 24m-long skeleton - believed the longest such skeleton found in Viet Nam - was buried in the fishing village of An Hai nearly 300 years ago. Islanders said the whale was found dead on the beach, but was too heavy to carry to burial inland and fishermen dug a big hole to bury it on the beach. They surmised that the whale had died off Hoang Sa (Paracels) Island of Viet Nam and drifted ashore on Ly Son Island.

Subsequently, local fishermen excavated the skeleton and placed it in a temple, where it was an object of worship. The Lang Tan Temple has been recognised as a national historical site. However, some parts of the skeleton were damaged over the years and not repaired due to lack of restoration technology.

The district’s vice chairwoman said another whale skeleton was also found in the area, and the province will approve a supplementary fund of VND4.1 billion ($181,415) for its restoration. Whale temples, known as Lang Ong, are often seen in 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 it dead, and perform a respectful mourning ceremony. They build a bamboo basket to carry it to a final resting place in a temple. They believe this dignified burial and worship confer luck on all the fishermen’s descendants, who still make their living from the sea.

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