Full Body Sea Burial

Casket or Shroud

Returning to the Ocean

Full Body Burial at Sea – San Diego

Full body burial at sea – complete body burial at sea – is another option instead of scattering ashes at sea.. A total body burial at sea using a shroud or casket is also possible. We are seeing more families select the full-body burial at sea option. It is available for anyone; civilian personnel, active duty members of the uniformed services, and veterans. It is the most environmentally friendly available. According to the EPA (in 2020), there were 2544 total body burials conducted in the United States. Pacemakers should be removed before burial.

The federal government and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) have rules about how a full body can be buried at sea. The body must be appropriately weighed and put to rest in water at least 600 feet deep. Also, the place of the burial site can’t be closer than three nautical miles to the shore.

The full-body sea burial is available to both military and civilian personnel. The military does have the option of the service being performed on a military ship while the ship is on deployment.

For military burials at sea, the family members cannot attend. Military burials also always use a casket and can take 6 – 12 months to complete. We can hold the body (human remains). However, waiting is a long time, and holding costs add up during this time.

Our blog article gives an extensive account of Full Body Sea Burial from a historical /cultural viewpoint across several cultures.

Full Body Burial at Sea History

Of course, if a veteran wishes to do the sea burial off a military ship, the veteran would have to have been honorable discharged. There are various levels of discharge, so even if a veteran is not honorable discharge, they should still ask the military, and they may be approved.

Reason to Select – Full Body Sea Burial

There are many compelling reasons for selecting a full body burial at sea for both civilian and military personnel as the disposition method. 

Deep Connection to the Sea: People with deep love and connection to the ocean can be buried with their whole bodies at sea. This gives them a final resting place that fits their desire and link to the sea.

Serene and Peaceful Setting: The peaceful and beautiful open sea serves as a quiet and peaceful background for the burial, giving the farewell ceremony a sense of calm and peace.

Environmental Considerations: Opting for a full body burial at sea promotes ecological sustainability, as it allows for natural decomposition and minimizes the use of finite land resources, making it an eco-friendly choice.

Unique and Memorable Farewell: A full-body burial at sea offers a distinctive and memorable way to bid farewell to a loved one. The ceremony and symbolism of releasing the body into the ocean’s vastness can create a powerful and enduring memory for family and friends.

Reasons to select a full body sea burial

Emotional Closure and Healing: Witnessing the final journey and releasing a loved one’s physical presence into the ocean can bring a sense of emotional closure and healing. It allows for a meaningful and cathartic experience, aiding the grieving process.

Honoring Maritime Heritage: For individuals with a solid maritime heritage or those who have spent their lives at sea, a full body burial at sea becomes a poignant way to honor and pay tribute to their unique life story and connection to maritime traditions.

Personalized Options: With full body burial at sea, there are options to accommodate personal preferences, such as selecting a casket or shroud, allowing for a more personalized and customized farewell ceremony.

Commemorative Rituals and Ceremonies: A full body burial at sea gives the departed friends and family a chance to gather, exchange stories, and participate in a special ceremony that honors the deceased’s life. This builds a sense of support and togetherness.

Professional Assistance and Guidance: Undertaking a full body burial at sea can be complex. However, dedicated professionals experienced in this service can provide guidance and support and ensure that all necessary arrangements are taken care of, relieving the burden on the family during this challenging time.

Leaving a Lasting Legacy: Opting for a full body burial at sea allows the departed to leave a lasting legacy, forever intertwined with the vast and majestic ocean, serving as a poignant reminder of their connection to the sea for generations to come.

Full Body Burial at Sea – Shroud Option

A shroud is just a cloth covering wrapped in a deceased for burial. However, there is a difference between a shroud used for earth burial and one used for full-body sea burial.

The earth burial shroud only has to cover the deceased with simple ties because it is gently placed in the earth.

The sea burial shroud must be much more robust!

Sea Burial Shroud

The sea burial shroud must be much more durable! It is a delivery vehicle to get the body to the ocean flow and hold it there. We consider factors such as ocean topography, underwater current flow, water depth, and water temperature at depth.

Body shroud with flowers around the head
Full body burial at sea shroud torso flowers
full body burial at sea white roses

The shroud can be decorated as the family wishes. The family will often add flowers for all guests to participate in the full-body sea burial. As well, remember floral fragrances.

There are a variety of fabric colors which are available for the shroud to suit the family’s tastes. To be a bit more ornate different color ribbons may also be attached. Many families will write messages on the shroud to the loved one.

The shroud should reflect the loved one’s tastes; colors are selected depending on their wish.

The outer part of the shroud can look as the family wishes. The internal part, however, is folded appropriately and weighted very precisely to ensure that the loved one stays on the ocean floor.

Shroud colors for full body burial at sea

Burial at Sea – CAsket option

We recently prepared a casket for a veteran who chose to have his burial off a united states navy military ship at sea. We held him at our facilities for about ten months before a military had a ship available for this service. The video below shows the preparation of the casket for a sea burial that we recently did with the Navy for this veteran. Civilian full-body burial at sea is also an option for the general public.

Full-body burial can be an excellent option for individuals who have a special attachment to the ocean. Perhaps people who spent their lives on the water, such as Navy personnel, fisherman, or someone to who this type of burial appeals.

It is a natural way to deal with your physical remains after passing.

As you would expect, several rules and guidelines exist for preparing the body and the casket or shroud. One federal regulation stipulation by the EPA is that additional weight must be added to ensure the body’s delivery to the ocean floor and that it stays there. Factors such as water depth and temperature must be considered. The full-body burial at sea must be reported to the EPA within 30 days.

Casket Selection and Prepartion for Sea Burial

Like the basic one, a metal casket must be used, as it will quickly disintegrate in the ocean. It comes in various colors, and the family may use a more upscale casket.

Perhaps there is a traditional church service before the full body sea burial, and the family wishes for a more elaborate casket.

Basic ray metal casket for full body burial at sea

A wooden casket cannot be used for a few reasons. Most importantly, it is not allowed by the EPA. It will also not degrade nearly as quickly; wook caskets are generally much heavier and, as a result, more difficult to handle on the deck of a ship on the ocean. Wood is also positively buoyant (it floats), so it would require more ballast to sink, adding to the issue of handling the casket in choppy seas.

No Non-Biodegradable Items

The funeral personnel will remove all non-biodegradable materials from inside the casket must be removed. This material would include all types of plastic, pillows, lining, etc., and anything else that would pollute the ocean.

At least twenty 2-inch holes must be drilled in the casket to allow water in and the air to leave, resulting in it sinking rapidly. For privacy, we may cover the holes with cloth or paper so the body is not visible to passengers. However, we cannot use plastic containing adhesives or tape.

The funeral home will also place metal straps around the casket to ensure the casket stays closed.

Lastly, the casket must be delivered and held on the ocean floor. To ensure this additional weight (ballast) is placed in the coffin. This is done to achieve a total weight of at least 300 lbs. This additional weight offsets any buoyancy from the body and casket itself. More weight will be placed toward the feet, allowing for the feet to sink first.

Strapping and hold specification for sea burial casket

United States Navy – Burial at Sea Program’s Guidelines for Casket Preparation (2010)

Full Body Sea Burial Questions

Location for Full Body Burial at Sea?

As you would expect, several rules and guidelines exist for preparing the body and the casket or shroud. Much additional weight must be added to deliver the body to the ocean floor and ensure it stays there. Factors such as water depth and temperature must be considered. The burial at sea must also be reported to the EPA within 30 days.

Map of ocean floor near Point Loma

Can I Arrange in Advance and PrePay for Sea Burial?

Because we are a fully licensed funeral home, we can arrange prepayment. In California, funeral homes setting pre-need must have the money held securely. We do this utilizing an insurance company that has been around for over 100 years and specializes in pre-need policies. For more information on pre-need funeral arrangements, view the section on our site. We are the only funeral home in San Diego that can arrange all aspects of whole-body sea burial.

Are There Specific Times of Year for Sea Burial?

We are mindful of the weather when we go to the ocean, specifically in this case, where we are going several miles offshore. Full-body burial at sea is available all year round, but during the winter, it is slightly more challenging to catch a weather window for the trip.

Fear of full Body Sea Burial

Fear of an unknown situation is common. Full-body burial at sea is an ancient tradition in many cultures. For a historical perspective, see our articles:


For a discussion of some of the fears a family may experience with this type of burial, see our article:


Can Family Attend and How Many?

We certainly hope the family can attend, but if not, we can perform the burial at sea in their absence and either video or take pictures of the event. The number of people that can attend varies by the yacht selected, but we can always use other ships to accommodate more people if needed.

Can the Body be Embalmed?

Often the body is not embalmed, but it certainly could be if the family wishes to do a traditional church service or a public viewing, then we would recommend embalming. If so, we would generally use a more “green” environmental procedure. Green embalming uses a non-toxic, biodegradable solution that helps preserve the body and restores its appearance.

Is the Body Likely to Float AFter a Few Days?

No – the body floating is very, very unlikely. There are several steps taken to prevent this. Although legally the, deceased only has to be buried at a depth of 600 feet, we bury at such a depth (over 2000 ft), there is so much pressure that any gas produced by decay will have such a small volume it will cause a little lift (Boyles Law and Archimedes’ principle). Also, the ocean temperature at that depth is frigid, significantly slowing the decomposition process, so any gas produced is produced very slowly. Additionally, the body is weighted to keep it on the ocean floor.

Can I do a Viking Style Burial at Sea?

No – the buring boat creates smoke and air pollution. As well it is a hazard to navigation for other vessels. As well, there are no guarantees that the body would sink after. So it sounds romantic, but it cannot be done.

Is a Full-Body Burial at Sea a Green Burial?

A full-body sea burial is a natural way to go – very green! Here is why.

When a body is buried in the sea, the ocean becomes a natural carbon sequestration mechanism. As the remains sink to the depths, they undergo a process called marine snow, where organic matter from the body provides nourishment for various aquatic organisms. These organisms consume the organic matter and release carbon dioxide during respiration. However, a significant portion of the carbon is assimilated into their bodies and eventually settles on the ocean floor, effectively removing it from the atmosphere for an extended period. This burial at sea contributes to the ocean’s ability to sequester carbon, playing a small but essential role in mitigating climate change. It is a much greener burial than cremation and scattering cremated remains.

How much does a full-body sea burial cost?

While it is difficult to give an exact cost because each is unique with different features and yachts. In general, a good rule of thumb is that it is about as expensive as a normal casket burial in a cemetery.

Does Canada allow full-body sea burials?

Canada does allow full-body burials at sea, and they have similar guidelines to the US.  It would be best if you were; at least 3 miles from shore; the body must be buried in at least 328 ft of water. As well, the body must not be embalmed. The authorities must be notified of the intent to do this in advance.

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