Being laid to rest at sea is a time-honored tradition that has probably been in practice ever since men first traveled the oceans. Until recently, a disposition at sea usually involved one of two traditional methods — either the burial of the entire body, or the scattering of ashes. Underwater inurnment in “memorial reefs” is now a third alternative.
Green movement followers are looking for unique, environmentally sensitive, “green” or sustainable burial solutions which have a minimal impact on the earth and its resources. Underwater inurnment combines several aspects of cremation (the urn, ash scattering, and burial at sea) into one environmentally meaningful and permanent tribute to a person’s life.
Memorial reefs are man made reefs placed on the ocean floor, in a design that resembles an underwater city. Cremated remains are mixed with concrete and fitted into a mold, or sealed in a specially designed, waterproof concrete container in the shape of a ‘reef ball’ which mimics a natural reef formation. Once the mold or container is complete, it is sunk to the bottom of the ocean to create an artificial reef. Depending on the wishes of the deceased or the family, the container may be left unadorned, simply personalized with the name and dates of birth and death, or have a metal memorial plaque permanently attached.
Once the container is installed on the ocean floor, it remains there in perpetuity as a memorial to the deceased. Over the next few years, the concrete urn undergoes a transformation as the new reef attracts ocean life to itself, and provides a home for creatures to live, feed, and reproduce, just like a natural reef.
Underwater inurnment is gaining more attention for several reasons. In contrast to traditional funerals and/or inurnment in a cemetery facility, artificial reefs are perceived as a more affordable, sustainable and environmentally beneficial solution. Artificial reefs are permanent, secure, and easy to arrange. This aspect of “giving back” to the earth in a positive way continues to invoke interest for those who wish to leave a unique and memorable legacy.
A number of companies and charter services offer plans and packages that include the installation of the ashes in the container, personalization as desired, and deployment to an offshore location where the container is lowered to its destination at the bottom of the ocean floor. The coordinates of the location are then recorded and given to the family. The event may also be marked by a memorial service either before or after the installation. A brief observation for the family may also be held onboard.
Depending on the company you choose to handle these services, most memorial reefs can range in price from $2000 to $7000. Services include, but are not limited to:
• Eternal Reefs: www.eternalreefs.com
• Memorial Reef, by Neptune Society: http://www.nmreef.com/plan-a-memorial.html