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Dead Bodies are Being Used to Create New Coral Reefs

“We are tied to the ocean,” John F. Kennedy once said. “And when we go back to the sea—whether it is to sail it or to watch it—we are going back from whence we came.”

Brian Delf began to really consider his death strategy after receiving his third cancer diagnosis. Brian, a veteran SCUBA diver and ardent supporter of marine conservation, desired a monument that reflected his enthusiasm for the sea.

A Sea Burial in the Present Day

Although federal law permits some types of burial at sea, Delf and his wife discovered that EPA restrictions make scattering ashes on one's own, difficult. Eternal Reefs came up with a solution.

Using its uniquely made reef balls, the Atlanta-based non-profit has provided over 2,000 reef burials since 1998. The procedure “combines a cremation urn, ash scattering, and burial at sea into one meaningful, a permanent environmental tribute to life.”

Structures that hold human or pet cremains, as well as small souvenirs or personal things, are created by Eternal Reefs and similar companies using a pH-balanced, environmentally friendly concrete mixture. The "reef balls" are then lowered into the water at specified locations to promote coral growth, provide habitat for sea life, and reduce erosion and tidal occurrences.

This innovative burial-at-sea option, which was recently featured on HBO's Six Ways to Die in America, is gaining popularity with many people who see an afterlife underwater, surrounded by sea life, as an appealing alternative to underground burial.

Strong, Heavy, Cheap, Readily Available

The idea of sinking man-made things to speed up coral growth isn't new, but our understanding of how to do so safely and successfully has progressed. Hazardous chemicals and heavy metals can seep into the surrounding water from decommissioned ships, which are routinely scuttled for this purpose. Reef balls, which are made of specially formed concrete, are a safer option.

“Strong, heavy, cheap, and readily available,” Concrete is a great material for artificial reefs since it closely reflects the composition of real limestone coral. The memorial reef firms believe that the reef balls will live up to 500 years, offering a home for many future corals, fish, and other sea life colonies.

Customers can incorporate their ashes into artificial memorial reefs in a variety of ways. Living Reefs' "community reefs," which can hold up to four sets of cremains and cost $875 per individual, are on the more economical end of the spectrum. Other reef balls range in price from $2,500 to $8,000 and can be used in a number of public and especially specified areas around the world.

Messages, handprints, and souvenirs can be embedded in the concrete to customize the reef balls. The specific GPS coordinates of their reef ball are sent to loved ones so they can visit in the future.

The Impact of Memorial Reefs on the Environment

Memorial reefs, like anything else, have their own set of environmental consequences, including CO2 emissions from cement manufacture and the environmental toll of cremation in general.

Despite proponents' claims that cremation is more environmentally beneficial than a casket burial with embalming, the procedure still releases millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere, as well as considerable amounts of hazardous pollutants like mercury. The average cremation in the United States emits roughly the same amount of CO2 as two average petrol tanks.

Alkaline hydrolysis, sometimes known as "aquamation," is a contemporary option that claims a tenth of the environmental impact of fire cremation and is now permitted in at least 18 states. Despite the fact that the technology is still new and pricey, many funeral directors are enthusiastically embracing it and promoting it as an environmentally friendly alternative to cremation.

A man-made answer to a man-made issue

Artificial reefs are one strategy in the effort to mitigate the consequences of pollution, abuse, and ozone depletion, with nearly a quarter of the world's coral destroyed since 1990. Man-made habitats can aid in the replenishment of sea life, the revitalization of local economies, and the revival of struggling tourism and fishing sectors.

The deployment of artificial reefs intensified after the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, as money for recovery poured in and more groups concentrated their efforts on cleaning and repairing the Gulf's environment.

Memorial reefs take the notion of artificial reefs a step further by allowing ocean enthusiasts to actively engage in the reef after death.


About the Writers:

Maina Zaina, Writer and a Virtual Assistant at AVCreativity Studio. She enjoys media entertainment and is an avid fan of "K-Wave". She loves her job because she is exposed to different types of entertainment. She also believes in the saying "If you want to be successful, don't seek success - seek competence, empowerment; do nothing short of the best that you can do" by Jaggi Vasudev

Pamela Elizabeth, Editor-in-Chief at AVCreativity Studio. Earned a Bachelor’s Degree of Secondary Education Major in English. She loves going on little adventures alongside reading good books. She is enthusiastic about her work and ensures that her clients receive the finest service possible.

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