If you are in the Navy, a burial at sea seems romantic and fitting. For most other people, such a burial may not only seem odd but even somewhat unattainable. Things are changing. An updated version of being buried at sea is catching the imagination of many people. At least 200 people have already received such a burial and now live beneath 40 feet of water less than five miles from the coast of Miami Beach.
This is no coffin rolled off of the deck of a ship.
The new underwater cemetery is known as Neptune Memorial Reef. It started out to be an art project. However, over time, it developed into a burial project. There are stone columns, arches, and even lions. Divers and fish are frequent visitors to these underwater tombs. The dearly departed are slowly and surely becoming part of a reef and the underwater community.
It starts with a cremation.
Those who opt for this unique marine burial are first cremated. Their ashes are then mixed into cement and formed into the shape of their choice. Once the cement has hardened, the newly created figure with the newly cremated deceased is then hauled out to the burial site to take its place among those becoming a reef under the waves. The memorial statue is lowered into position in the reef/cemetery as its resting place. Within a few years, the statue takes on the appearance of belonging as it is accepted by the sea and the marine life there.
Divers can swim among the tombs to pay respects to the dead.
Plaques are embedded on the “sculptures” to commemorate the individual entombed there. Visitors can dive down to the memorial reef to view the names and dates inscribed on the plaques although sometimes the sea life that has covered them may need to be scraped away. You must often compete with the fish for the space. It is a peaceful and gentle place for the dead to make their final home.
The cemetery is becoming an artificial reef.
The ocean floor is becoming littered with items that have been sank to become artificial reefs in shallow coastal waters. This underwater cemetery is designed to attract sea life and divers without adding pollutants or navigational hazards to the ocean. Algae colonizes the figures as the beginning of the reef. Eventually, the dead will become a part of something to help increase the amount of life in the sea. As the reef grows, the “tombs” will becoming more and more obscured until they are simply a part of the growing and living reef that has been built upon their remains.