• Q: I saw a segment on TV about human remains being buried at sea in large ball-like orbs. Can Action Line tell me how that works?
• A: Eternal Reefs of Decatur, Ga., handles this task.
``The company mixes cremated remains into cement and creates what are called reef balls -- artificial reefs that, when placed in the ocean, help rebuild natural reef barriers off the coasts of certain states (Florida being one of them''), Lisa Cullen, author of Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death, said. The balls are made in Sarasota and then shipped to the place of burial.
Because reef-building requires permits from the Army Corps of Engineers, specific locations can't be promised in advance. Once a memorial reef is in the ocean, Eternal Reefs will provide the family with the exact GPS coordinates so it can visit the site.
Eternal Reefs creates three different reef balls -- Aquarius, Nautilus and Atlantis. They start at $1,995 and go up to $4,995 -- if the reef balls contain the remains of one person. The company also creates a ball for animals, Pearls are for Pets, for $495. Advanced planning programs are also available. Family and friends can even be part of the casting process by mixing the remains, pouring the concrete into the mold and placing handprints and written messages in wet concrete.
''Horns are blasted, flowers are tossed, and at-sea burial is as emotional as any [burial] on land,'' Cullen said.
For details, visit http://www.eternalreefs.com/ or call, toll-free, 888-423-7333.
''A general permit is needed for carrying out a burial at sea, either whole body or cremated remains,'' Gary Collins, biological oceanographer with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said. The burial must be conducted within the guidelines of the EPA and must be reported within 30 days of the permit being granted. There are different depth requirements for the burials of whole bodies and those of cremated remains.
Government regulations are at http://www.epa.gov/region4/water/oceans/burial.htm.
• If you're interested in burials at sea, you might also want to do some research on burials in space. Space Services offers flights that can take cremated remains into orbit around earth, onto the lunar surface or into deep space. Some will return the remains back after a voyage.
Some celebrities' remains that have been launched into space include Timothy Leary, 1960s' counterculture writer and advocate of psychedelic drug use; Eugene Shoemaker, co-discoverer of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9; and James Doohan, the actor who played Scotty on Star Trek.