updated 4/5/2004 5:00:44 PM ET 2004-04-05T21:00:44

Thousands of Vietnamese are making pilgrimages to a beach in southern Vietnam to worship a dead whale.

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More than a thousand people — many from hundreds of miles distant — have journeyed to burn incense near the whale carcass discovered on the beach Friday, said a police officer in the Thanh Phu District of Ben Tre province.

Many villagers, especially fishermen, worship the giant mammals and believe a dead whale washing ashore is a sign of good fishing to come.

The 82-foot whale has started to decompose, but it could take weeks to decay completely, said the officer, who identified himself only as Minh. The villagers plan to use the bones to build a temple to honor the whale, he said.

A smaller whale washed ashore last month in the same area, about 100 miles southwest of Ho Chi Minh City, and the villagers have since built a shrine for it, Minh said.

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