VILLAGERS of Kubulau in Bua watched a 53-foot male whale die after it swam aground at the mouth of the Yanawai River early this week.
Hundreds of villagers witnessed the monstrous mammal try unsuccessfully to free itself.
Kilaka Village headman Manueli Pita said on Tuesday a villager from neighbouring Dawara, on the border of Cakaudrove and Bua, spotted the injured whale.
"We tried to help by digging around it in the sand, even attempted to free it using an outboard but all our attempts failed," he said.
"The whale was just too big, in all my 56 years I have never seen a fish so big.
"We called the authorities because we felt so sorry because it was trying to get free. It was injured with bites visible over its body."
Early on Thursday, the big visitor rising 11 feet high, heaved its final breath with a shrill wail in a sad moment witnessed by people from Nakorovou, Kilaka and Dawara.
"It was really sad, some of the villagers even cried when they saw the whale crying," he said. "Seconds before it died it flapped its tail repeatedly and let out a sad cry like the sound of a davui (conch shell).
"It was as if it was making a final attempt to get free, then it stopped and we somehow knew it was dead.
"The spot in the sand where it had dug its tail had become deep and we all felt sad knowing the whale had tried so hard." Fisheries Department officials and those from the World Conservation Society arrived shortly after the whale died.
Mr Pita said the whale brought good fortune to the villagers. "After it died we cut some meat and ate it, and shared about 34 tabua," he said.
The first whale ran aground near Kilaka in 1986.