Burial At Sea

Burial at sea is a broad term for disposing of the body in the ocean.  Families choose this option for many reasons and it can be a very beautiful and uplifting experience.  There are three basic ways to perform a burial at sea: full body burial, burial of the ashes with the urn in the ocean, or scattering the ashes in the ocean.  We will discuss these methods of burial at sea and help you choose the right option for you.

Methods of Performing a Burial at Sea


Casket of US Navy Sailor is sent over the edge of aircraft carrier during burial at sea ceremony.The first method of burial at sea is the full body burial.  In this method, the full body is either wrapped in a cloth or placed in a casket and lowered into the ocean. The United States allows full body burials in its territorial waters, which is outside of three miles from the coast.  It is state territory within three miles.  You will need to check with your individual state to see if they allow for a full body burial at sea.



urn used for burial at sea

The second method of burial at sea is to place the cremated remains in an urn and lower the urn into the ocean.  The urn can be either biodegradable or non-biodegradable.  With a biodegradable burial at sea urn, the urn will eventually degrade and release the cremated remains that are inside.



scattering ashes is a way of doing a burial at seaThe third method used for burial at sea is to scatter the cremated remains in the ocean.  This can be done by boat or by airplane.  To scatter the cremated remains by boat, the family and friends set out on a voyage to the desired location in the ocean.  This usually involves chartering a boat for a few hours.  The cremated remains are placed in the water and allowed to descend into the ocean.   The boat needs to be placed into the wind and moving at the right speed.  If done incorrectly, the ashes may end up back in the boat instead of in the water, so make sure you choose a reputable company with a captain experienced with burial at sea.  Keep in mind that a scattering ceremony on a boat may last a few hours, and if the seas are rough your guests may get seasick.


witnessScattering cremated remains by airplane is the final way to have a burial at sea, and in our opinion, the best way.  Unlike scattering by boat where the ashes are placed at the desired locations, scattering of ashes by airplane is a more thorough scattering.  This means that the scattering is done over a larger area.  The cremated remains are released into the wind.  Some of the ashes will descend to the earth below while the rest travel with the wind before descending.  By choosing an airplane as your method for burial at sea you have more options for participation. Families can participate by being on board the airplane or watching from the ground.  It is important to work with a pilot that has experience in burial at sea scattering.  Every pilot seems to have a story of an attempt to scatter ashes that doesn’t go well.  If the pilot doesn’t know how to scatter ashes from the plane, it is likely the ashes will end up back in the plane or all over the side of the plane.  If you are thinking of scattering ashes by airplane as your method for burial at sea make sure you seek out a commercial pilot with experience in burial at sea.  Look for an established business with professional liability insurance, commercial-rated pilots and a strong track record.


handstoskyHere at A Journey With Wings, one of our most popular scatterings is the witnessed burial at sea scattering.  In this service, an unlimited number of friends and family may gather at a pier or shoreline to witness the plane release the cremated remains.  Families and friends gather at a day and time of their choosing.  The cremated remains are released in full view of the family and friends.  The ashes leave the plane and make an elegant twist in the air.  They are then carried away by the wind and settle to the ocean below for their burial at sea.  Some families bring balloons with messages written on them, and they release the balloons after the burial at sea.  This guarantees a memorable experience for all in attendance.

If you have any questions about burial at sea or other scattering options, please contact us.

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