Want to Be Buried At Sea? Get a Good Lawyer First.

Noordwijk beach, where some of the urns were found.

On a quiet shore a few miles north of the Hague’s International Criminal Court, a seasoned beachcomber and his son were startled when they spotted something unprecedented in their decades of sand-scouring: an urn of human ashes. Nearby, a fisherman reeled in an inauspicious catch—another urn of cremated remains. Further up the coast, an elderly woman’s stroll on the beach was interrupted by yet another vessel of mortality.

Last week’s news reports of the three urns washing ashore across the Netherlands galvanized a flurry of rumors: Were the urns a result of a drug smuggling front? Perhaps some other sort of foul play?

Finally, after days of speculation, a Dutch shipping company provided a relatively drab answer to the riddle: It had bungled a sea funeral; the urns “slipped from an employee’s hands over the railing,” the company told the Guardian.

Across the world, burials at sea are on the rise, according to Michael Karcher, a maritime attorney and professor of admiralty law at the University of Miami School of Law. In 2017, 20,000 Germans were buried at sea, a marked increase from previous years, according to the German news site Deutsche Welle. Between 2007 and 2015, Hong Kong saw a five-fold increase in sea burials, according to its internal news service. “I have noticed a great increase in interest in burial at sea,” Ann Rodney, an environmental protection specialist in the United States Environmental Protection Agency‘s ocean and coastal unit, told Mother Jones in 2011.

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