An enormous whale known as "Your Excellency" received last rites and was buried today at the mouth of the Cai Cung River at southern Bac Lieu province in Vietnam, according to an Associated Press report.

On Sunday, the 15-ton, 52-foot-long whale was observed floating dead 26 miles off the coast. It took several dozen fishermen on 10 boats just to bring the whale ashore.

Whales are regarded as being sacred animals in Vietnam, particularly among fishermen who revere these largest denizens of the deep. Whales are called "ngai," an honorary title that's also given to respected human leaders.

Thousands of people were expected to attend today's funeral. Yesterday, 10,000 mourners had already gathered to honor the whale in the southern Vietnamese village. The air was thick with incense burned during such sacred occasions.

Plans are already underway to build a temple at the site of the whale's burial. 

"Whenever whales arrive, dead or alive, local fishermen believe they bring luck and safety," Do Tien Ha, a coast guard in the area, told AP.