Being laid to rest at sea is a time-honored tradition that has probably been in practice as long as people have traveled the oceans. Until recently, a disposition at sea usually involved one of two traditional methods – either committing a person’s body to the ocean, or scattering their ashes. Underwater inurnment in “memorial reefs” is now a third alternative.
Many people 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 artificial reefs placed on the ocean floor. 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, and provides a home for them to thrive, just like a natural reef.
Memorial Reefs’ Growing Popularity
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
- Permanent, secure, and easy to arrange
- A way of “giving back” to the earth in a positive way
- Leaving a unique and memorable legacy
A number of companies and charter services offer plans and packages that include the installation of the ashes in a container, personalization as desired, and deployment to an offshore location where the container is lowered to the memorial reef or chosen resting place in the ocean. The coordinates of the location are then recorded and given to the family.
A memorial service or brief observation may be held before or after the installation.
What are the Costs of Memorial Reefs?
Depending on the company you choose to handle these services, placement in a memorial reefs can range in price from $2,000 to $7,000. Services can include:
- Handling the remains
- Mixing the remains into concrete
- Casting the memorial reef
- Transportation to the reef
- Placement and dedication of the reef
- A GPS record of the reef
- A plaque with an inscription
- Memorial certificates
What are Some Considerations Regarding Memorial Reefs?
- Some companies may charge a fee to attend the memorial reef dedication ceremony
- Once the memorial is in place, it cannot be retrieved
- Memorial reefs can only be placed in permitted locations
- Unlike a traditional gravesite, this memorial site is in the sea. This may make your loved one’s final resting place more difficult to visit.
Companies Who Offer Memorial Reef Services
Eternal Reefs: Created to rehabilitate and rebuild the dying reefs and in turn, add new habitat to the marine environment, the company offers more than a dozen memorial sites in the U.S.
Learn more at www.eternalreefs.com.
Neptune Memorial Reef: An artificial reef 3.5 miles off the coast of Miami, FL, built as an artistic interpretation of the lost city of Atlantis and undersea tribute to life.
Learn more at www.nmreef.com.