Burial at Sea

May 12, 2008 at 7:00 am | Posted in Family, Military, Under the Sea | 7 Comments

(Or reason 1,976 why my family thinks I’m crazy)

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while. I read an article a few days ago that made me decide that now is the time. A little over 5 years ago one of my uncles died following a lengthy illness, without a will or written instructions about what he wanted to happen when he died. He had spoken about a preference for cremation so we know the family got that right, but otherwise we were pretty much winging it. The chaos the family experienced trying to plan after my uncle’s death actually had one good effect- some of us have started making our wishes known. For example, although we have no idea where she wants to buried, we all know that Mom expects her obituary to end “..and (Mom) loved flowers”. She doesn’t “want any of that in lieu of flowers donate to this charity crap” (yes, my mother actually said crap when she made this statement).

It took me a little bit longer to decide what I want beyond the fact that I want to be an organ donor. My family is everywhere- mom in one state, dad and sister in another, extended family in a third and brother/sister-in-law on another continent courtesy of the US Army. I’ve also been moving around a lot. I lived in the state mom lives in until about 10 years ago, but have lived in three states since then. As a result, I don’t feel the need to be buried in any particular state and I don’t want any of my family visiting my remains at a cemetary. I do however have a specific request. I want to be buried at sea. Not like the burials at sea most people are familiar with (e.g. no pushing a weighted coffin off the side of a ship for me). I have something MUCH cooler in mind for my burial at sea. My plans are one of the many reasons why my family thinks I’m crazy. Most of them have laughed about it as a matter of fact.

Do you want to know more?

A few years ago I found out about Eternal Reefs. This is a company that takes cremains, mixes them with concrete and then uses the mixture to mold reef balls. The reef balls provide a base for the growth of a new ecosystem- coral, plant life, and all kinds of underwater life forms. Here is a picture of some reef balls from the company’s website:

As you can see, they come in different sizes. They all have holes which allow the water to pass through and also provide a way for smaller life forms to come “inside”, giving protection from prey to smaller fish and other creatures. This encourages sea life to make their home in and around the reef balls. This happens pretty quickly. The website has a photo gallery that includes underwater photos of reef balls. Each reef ball has a bronze plaque that can be inscribed with the name of the person whose cremains are in the ball. The families also receive two certificates with the GPS coordinates of their loved one’s reef ball following placement of the reef.

This really appeals to me. I love the ocean and feel at peace when I am by it, sailing on it, or swimming or scuba diving in it. The smell and taste of the air near the ocean, the sound of the waves and really everything else about the ocean makes me happy. What better place for me to spend eternity? Plus, no worries about anyone feeling any kind of obligation to visit my grave. My brother and SIL scuba dive and might come “visit” if I die first. Plus, ABW has promised to learn to scuba dive so she can come see my reef ball if I die first (Gunner will have to learn and accompany her of course). The part I like best about it is that I’ll actually be of some use even when dead. I’d rather help support the creation of a new coral reef than be stuck in a box underground destined to be worm food in a few hundred years. I like the idea of having a purpose even after my death.

My only requirement is that I want my own reef ball. They are cheaper if you agree to have your cremains mixed with someone else’s, but having my cremains mixed with the cremains of a stranger for eternity just has too much of an ick factor for me. If I’m married when I die and my husband wants to be part of an eternal reef he can join me, but otherwise I’m going solo in my reef ball.

I heard about Eternal Reefs a few years ago and really like what I read at their website. They’ve been around for a while now and have established multiple reefs. They even have a Military Honors Program for eligible veterans whose families decide to have the honors presented at the reef ball viewing ceremony (and offer a military discount).

Like I said before, when I told my family about it they thought I was crazy. My sister thinks it’s hilarious that I want to “be a concrete ball” when I’m dead. Heck, even most of my friends think it’s strange. If wanting this makes me a weirdo, then there are a lot of other weirdos around. The story that I linked to in the beginning has information about another company that does something similar. Neptune Memorial Reef is about 3.25 miles off Key Biscayne. I found this video of the reef on Youtube:

It may be rude of me to say this, but I find this one a bit too kitschy. I mean come on. A gate to an underwater cemetary with lions guarding it? Having your cremains molded into a starfish shape and then placed in what basically amounts to an underwater amusement park? It just seems tacky to me. Clearly though, the founders of this company think it is a viable business model. There wouldn’t be a second company founded in the US for undersea/coral reef burials and memorials if there wasn’t a segment of the public willing to pay for the service. My family may be right, I may be crazy for wanting this, but I’m not the only crazy one!



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  1. I love the idea. My hubby would think I’m nuts!

  2. I sure don’t think you are crazy. I’ve spent my whole life rehabilitating reefs and working for Reef Ball Foundation so people would probably think it normal for me to be buried in a Reef Ball but I just had a view of my own mortality when I had to get a prostate biopsy last Friday so I really had to think.
    Maybe other people don’t know exactly what I want.
    So, you are so right…if you know what you want after you pass take the time to write it down. And for the record, I’m with you I want my own Reef Ball (maybe even my own reef!).

  3. Thank you Todd and Krista- It’s nice to hear you both like the idea. Even ABW thinks it’s a bit weird. I really do think the reef balls are cool and I hope my family follows through on my wishes when the time comes.

  4. But, I have gotten used to the idea! The more I think about it, it makes sense. Maybe some day I will be the concrete ball next to you.

  5. Well, it is not for me, but I think it is a neat idea. It makes as much, or more, sense as scattering remains to the winds. Being a genealogist, I want a record of my whereabouts, but I applaud innovation.
    Maybe glass-bottom boats could be provided for those who want to visit but don’t dive.

  6. You are definitely welcome to join me ABW. I hope Gunner is OK with the plan :)

  7. Gypsy at Heart- There are markers on each concrete ball with the name of the deceased and other information (some of have the date of death or a short saying). Plus, the GPS coordinates are provided to the family after the balls are sunk. Would this meet your needs for a record?

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