It was the way Neil Armstrong, Edmund Hillary and Alfred Hitchcock all chose to be buried at sea.

Now an increasing number of people are opting to have their ashes, and even their bodies, dropped into the Sussex sea.

Groups offering the service say a rising interest is being driven, in part, by the religious observances of Hindus and a growing interest in ecology.

The Maritime Volunteer Service East Sussex has a special licence allowing it to carry out burials at a specially designated site nine miles south of Newhaven which is one of only three points in the UK where sea burials are allowed.

The charity carries out three burials a year and up to a dozen ashes scattering ceremonies.

They ask for a donation of up to £2,000 to cover their costs for each burial which has to follow strict guidelines.

Coffins have to be weighed down and holes drilled in while the wood used for coffins has to be natural and untreated, the body not embalmed and all clothes and flowers have to be biodegradable.

Sailing connection

One of the services’ skippers Greg Darby, who has also made it his last wish to be buried at sea, said: “Usually people who have a real connection with the sea, people who served with the Royal or Merchant Navy, want to be buried while people who lived overlooking the coast or walked their dog along the beach want to have their ashes scattered.

“We’ve also had an interest from the Hindu community.

“Their belief is to be scattered in the Ganges which is a living God to them but this isn’t possible for all of them so if they are returned to the sea ultimately they will return to the Ganges.

“If you are buried at sea, you are not taking space up in the ground or giving off fumes at a cremation, people like the idea of being returned to the sea.”

Sussex Voyages host a couple of ceremonies every month and say interest is rising.

The firm started offering the service three years ago and have held ten so far this year with popular locations including Pevensey Bay, Beachy Head and Eastbourne Pier.

Founder Peter Smith said his company offers a biodegradable urn made from sand and gelatine that bobs on the surface for about a minute before sinking below the waves and dissolving in 12 hours.

Mr Smith said: “The biodegradable urn means you don’t have ashes washing up the side of the boat or being blown into people’s faces, the terrible things you hear about.

“It also means that you don’t have the urn being picked up by fishing nets or being washed up which isn’t very dignified.”

For more details on services at sea visit, or contact the Marine Volunteer Service on 01892 853500.

Talking point

What would you like to happen after your death? Would you like to be buried at sea?

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