Burial at Sea
As long as humans have been sailing the seas, they’ve been disposing bodies by dumping them in the ocean. The U.S. Navy provides a burial at sea option for current and former members of the armed forces. Until recently, sea burial was not a realistic option for civilians, in spite of the fact that almost 40 percent of the U.S. population lives in coastal counties.
Captain Brad White, owner of New England Burials at Sea, is changing that.
“In 2009, there were only two sea burials done in the country that were reported to the EPA,” said White. “We now do an average of two to three per month.”
White’s company, which is now in its 11th year and has expanded to both coasts, provides full-body burial at sea services for around $10,000.
Burial at sea has become popular –700 clients are on a list for the service — because people have both a love of the ocean and a growing awareness of the environmental cost of burial, White said.
The company uses biodegradable burial shrouds that White designed (they cost $1,750). They are made of cotton and weighed down by 165 pounds of traditional cannonballs. The shrouds dissolve in three to six months, according to White. The bodies the company buries are not typically embalmed.
For New York clients, the company offers full-body burial services out of either Freeport, Captree or Montauk. To reach the EPA-required depths of 600 feet from those ports, the company’s boats must travel 95 miles into the Atlantic.
There are also practical advantages to burial at sea. There are no headstones or grave plots to buy.
“People don’t really visit graveyards anymore,” White said. “This way every time they look at the sea they can think of their loved ones.” — Josh Keefe