There Goes My Dream of a Viking Funeral in America

By Bryan Menegus on at

I don’t have any plans to die, ever. But if I do eventually eat it for some unseen reason, having my 6,000-year-old corpse loaded onto a canoe and immolated at sea by a perfectly aimed flaming arrow would be the way to go, in my humble opinion. As with many dreams of mine, it turns out this is illegal—at least under US law.

Jack Denton, a dedicated killjoy at Pacific Standard, wrote recently about the legality of sea burials, a subject I have no expertise on because, as I said, I have no plans on becoming a dead person. And while maritime law evidently has more teeth than you’d expect, the dumping of bodies close to US shores (and by US boats in international waters, which are considered “flag states”) is firmly within the purview of America's Environmental Protection Agency. From Pacific Standard:

The EPA allows cremated remains, or full bodies in a shroud or casket filled with holes. Plastics are strictly forbidden, as decreed by the International Maritime Organization’s MARPOL convention on the prevention on marine pollution. Unfortunate for U.S.-based vikings at the end of their lives, burning a boat is not permitted, nor is transporting remains “by an expendable device, such as a balloon, rocket, or similar pyrotechnics, to land in or release remains over ocean waters.”

Dear readers—or those of you who wish to be shot from a cannon into the ocean, anyway—I feel your disappointment.

I looked up the US federal regulations, and they truly find every way to strip the joy out of communing with the ocean in death, such as stating you can only bury uncremated people three nautical miles out from shore at certain ocean depths. I guess because having a dead person wash up on a public beach is undesirable? Want to bury pets at sea? Also, prohibited, for some reason.

You would think with all the current US government's environmental deregulation, they could have done at least one good thing by accident, like figuring a way to make setting your loved ones on fire in the middle of the Pacific permissible. [Pacific Standard]

Featured image: Richard Shotwell/AP