Saying farewell to a departed loved one is never easy. You can make it more meaningful and have a symbolic and intimate event through a proper burial at sea. There are many symbolisms and rules that surround this ceremony. At present, it’s done in many cultures and in several places in the U.S., and to honor your loved you can do it one as well.
A Look at Its History
Many religious and historical accounts have mentioned burials at sea or scattering of remains into bodies of water. During the Viking Age, the privilege of a ship burial and being cast into the sea is reserved for honored warriors and kings. It was believed that the ocean serves as a portal between the human world and the spiritual realm. Sending off the departed through the waters symbolizes the end of physical life and the beginning of spiritual rebirth.
As ships sailed into the modern age, the ritual continued to be practiced by many groups. British navy men from centuries back performed burials at sea for a variety of reasons. First, as the ships traveled for months on end, it was impractical for them to reach a nearby port and find a burial site for the departed. Secondly, according to sources, these shipmen were very superstitious back then, and keeping the bodies on board may bring the passengers bad luck if they were not buried at sea.
Today, anybody can be buried at sea, if the family wishes it. There are private charter boats that can be hired to take family and friends to perform the ceremony on the open waters. Some families wish to bury their loved ones in a casket, while some choose to scatter the cremated remains into the ocean.
As stated by the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA), a general permit is required before a burial at sea may be done. This permit is applied for and issued to the private charter group, as they are responsible for operating the vessel and transporting the remains. In line with these regulations, the ceremony should be performed not less than three nautical miles from the shore.
Non-cremated remains may be buried at sea with or without a casket. An undertaker will be familiar with all preparations to the body. If buried without a casket, the body must be covered in a natural fiber fabric, such as sail cloth, secured tightly with natural rope, and weighed down along the feet with steel chains.
The MPRSA also gives the recommended specs for casketed remains. Based on their recommendations, the casket should made of wood with steel fasteners and steel weights, without paint, and without plastic or synthetic materials. There should be holes along the top, bottom, and sides of the casket to allow water to seep in and to ensure that the remains will sink to the sea bed.
Cremated remains may be scattered to the water, regardless of depth, as long as the ship is beyond the three nautical mile limit. The family may also choose to throw flowers and wreaths into the ocean, and these should not contain any non-biodegradable materials like plastic.
Service from a Group You Can Trust
Preparing for a burial ceremony can be a painstaking process for the family of the deceased. If you need assistance in the planning and implementation of a burial at sea, you can always seek the trusted services of private charters. They are well-versed and highly experienced with the guidelines imposed by the authorities for burials at sea, and they can make sure your family’s ceremony is intimate and full of meaning.
Discuss with them about how you want your loved one’s burial to be, and they will work with you to make it happen.
Seafaring Superstitions and Marine Myth Rituals Explored, DTMag.com
Burial at Sea – Ocean Dumping Management, EPA.gov
All About Heaven – Symbols – Ocean and Sea, AllAboutHeaven.org