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Coral blossoms with the secret of eternal life
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
29 September 2002
"Full fathom five thy father lies; Of his bones are coral
Shakespeare, of course, got there first, but now you can turn
Ariel's song in The Tempest into concrete reality – literally. An
American firm, which prides itself on "thinking out of the box of
traditional death care'', will turn your loved ones into coral
reefs, giving them "a beachfront property for eternity''.
The company, Eternal Reefs, has already consigned the remains of
more than 100 people into its environmentally friendly version of
Davy Jones's Locker. It grew out of a firm that has been making
artificial reefs for the past decade, sinking more than 100,000
concrete "reef balls'' (actually more like hollow domes with large
holes in their sides) in 1,500 different places around the
Now, for around $3,200 (£2,000), it will mix human ashes from
cremations – or "cremains'' as it likes to call them – into the
concrete for "ongoing reef development projects".
Amanda Leesburg, a director of the firm based in Georgia,
Atlanta, said demand was steadily increasing. "The people who are
interested are those who grew up near the ocean – fishermen, members
of the Navy, environmentalists and scuba divers. The concept is
really taking off because plot space is running out and people are
looking for alternative ways to get buried."
The company was begun by Don Brawley, who had the idea after his
father-in-law, Carleton Palmer, decided he wanted to have his
remains scattered at sea. Mr Brawley was already working for the
Reef Ball Development Group – along with his old schoolfriend, Todd
Barber – and he realised that the ash in the reef balls could be
replaced with cremated remains: his father-in-law became the first
human reef ball.
Two memorial reefs have been established off Florida and South
Carolina. Demand is so great that another two were started this
summer. The top price buys a 4ft-high, 6ft-wide, 4-ton ball, which
"stands out as a pinnacle of the reef and attracts the large species
of marine life''. You can cut the price by arranging to share it
with up to three other "sets of remains''.
The bargain basement buys a place in a community reef, the size
of two basketball courts. The company says: "Individuals who choose
this option have their cremated remains mixed together and are cast
as a complete reef system of multiple modules.''
The walls of the balls are made of 6in-thick concrete with "a
special surface texture'' to attract soft corals, sponges, algae and
barnacles to grow on them. They are designed to last 500 years.
Brass plaques are attached, though they are often soon buried by
the reef life, and relatives are encouraged to visit by scuba
diving. For the less active, the company is setting up a programme
"to videotape the reefs as they mature, so everyone can see the
positive effect that your loved one's reef contribution is making on
It also promotes the scheme as "a spiritual and ecologically
positive resting place''. Mr Brawley says that this offers "the
ability to make a decision about our death which will positively
impact the world after we are gone".
And Katherine Kirbo, executive director of the Reef Ball
Foundation, said that it "allows the individual to become truly
involved with the eco-systems of the oceans".
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world's sexiest animal is revealed