The Atlantis Reef sits approximately 5.2 km off the coast of the Florida Keys. This man-made reef was originally created in 2007 as a safe-haven for marine life in the wake of so many marine reef habitats being destroyed thanks to human activity and large coastal storms, not to mention an attraction for divers and wildlife enthusiasts. However, one of the reef’s more interesting aspects is the span created as an art installation, resembling the fabled lost city of Atlantis with its spiralling gates and stone guardian lions that is set to be a final resting place for those looking for something a bit more extreme than the simple coffin burial.
The Neptune Society, an America-based organisation, has been providing cremation services for the bereaved for over a decade, but starting in 2007 they began hosting the option to have your loved one’s ashes added to this underwater mausoleum. The ashes are mixed with cement and used to create new structures to be added to the reef, ones that will form the foundational bed onto which thousands of different forms of aquatic life will eventually make their homes.
This rare opportunity to go on to create something positive out of a loved one’s death didn’t come easily, as the currently 65,000 square foot artificial reef lies within a special conservation zone. Permits had to be obtained by the Neptune Society from various governing bodies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, the Florida Fish and Wildlife group, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, just to name a few. Currently, only eight hundred and fifty remains will be a part of the first phase of the project, with more availability opening over time.
Yet despite the hurdles, one cannot argue with the chance to use the remains of the dearly departed to help create new life. As the made-made structure begins to turn into a true reef with each passing year, thousands of different species have made it their home, and indeed the Atlantis Reef is teeming with life, including many species of endangered marine life. Over the passing decades, the reef’s concrete structures will be rendered unrecognisable by the natural coral formations which have already begun to overtake the underwater city, but it will be nice to know that, preserved at the very heart of the reef, your loved one’s remains still stand – a true testament to life after death.