For Vietnam’s fishermen, whales are gods of the southern sea | Arts and Culture

The story goes like this: When Nguyen Van Loc left his gray concrete house on Ly Son Island and strolled in direction of his glazed blue boat, he anticipated a routine fishing journey – dawn melting over the horizon, a rice wine breakfast, a sluggish seek for shoals and, in the event that they had been fortunate, an honest catch.

But inside a couple of hours of venturing past the island’s offshore reefs, a storm threatened to capsize his plans.

Beneath galvanised skies, fierce winds hastened over the ocean, whipping sea spray into ghouls that lashed in opposition to Loc’s boat. Across the vessel, waves churned into steeper and steeper peaks that despatched the crew crashing in opposition to the deck. Lightning lit up the ocean, shining a torchlight on their destiny.

Loss of life, Loc felt, was absolutely shut.

After binding themselves along with rope – so their corpses can be discovered as one – Loc and his fellow fishermen gripped the boat’s gunwale and prayed for assist. As they peered on the heaving sea, remembering ancestors who had fallen earlier than them, a clean, rectangular type appeared, and a sensible, barnacled eye stared again at them – as if wanting straight into their souls.

The lads, nonetheless, felt no worry, for it was to the whale god Cá Ông that they’d directed their prayers.

As the boys cheered in elation, one other two whales appeared beside their boat.

Over the following few hours, the three cetaceans steered the fishermen away from a deep-sea loss of life and in direction of house, the place their story would unfold via fish markets and eating places for many years to return.

An illustration of a boat in a storm with a whale swimming next to it.
Nguyen Van Loc and fishermen being rescued by whales [Zoe Osborne/Al Jazeera]

Upon listening to Loc’s story, one could be tempted to dismiss his expertise as a mind-blowing one-off. A miracle. A rescue of biblical proportions. But what’s putting about his story shouldn’t be its singularity, however how usually related anecdotes floor inside Vietnam’s shoreline communities. From southern Phu Quoc Island proper as much as the coastal metropolis of Da Nang, fishermen habitually beguile listeners with tales of cetacean altruism.

Is there a morsel of reality of their tales? One can solely discover out by rising at daybreak to stroll via fishermen’s markets and trying to find dozens of whale temples dotted alongside the south-central Vietnamese shoreline.

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