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Life After Life

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One of the most unusual final resting places in the world is coming more alive every day. The Neptune Memorial Reef, about three miles off Key Biscayne, Florida, is not only attracting a greater variety of marine life, it is also bringing in a bevy of scuba divers and underwater photographers.

The one-of-a-kind cemetery lies in 45 feet of water and includes benches, gates, and sculptures, as well as memorial plaques of those who have been laid to rest there. If the Neptune Society’s plans come to fruition, it will become the largest man-made reef in the world. And, judging by the reaction from divers, it’s well on its way.

“Already, in less than a year, large numbers of schooling fish—grunts and snappers—have begun to congregate around the site. Spotted eagle rays cruise through regularly. Smaller tropical fish—damsels, tangs, triggers, and puffers—seek refuge and forage around the statues,” said Colin Ford, an underwater photographer who frequents the area. “Sponges and a few soft coral species have already begun their colonization, and hard corals certainly won’t be far behind.”

While the corals grow and the site expands to 16 acres, the real purpose of the reef is to memorialize loved ones. Artist Kim Brandell called his design “life after life.” After cremation, ashes are mixed with cement and molded into forms that divers can attach to the reef. Family members can also pay tribute to their loved ones with a message on a copper and bronze plaque. Memorials start at $995, and the reef is expected to be able to house up to 125,000 of them.

“With the help of time and nature, this underwater memorial city will become a living reef of colorful marine life and coral growth that holds secure the remembrances of the dearly departed for all time,” said Jerry Norman, president of the Neptune Society.

The company hopes the reef will become one of the world’s most visited underwater spots. Divers are spreading the word, posting tons of photos and videos of the site. To see examples, go to and click on our blogs page. For more information about the reef, visit

This article originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.