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Burial at Sea

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"We therefore commit his body to the deep,
to be turned into corruption,
looking for the resurrection of the body
(when the Sea shall give up her dead),
and the life of the world to come,
through our Lord Jesus Christ;
who at his coming shall change our vile body,
that it may be like his glorious body,
according to the mighty working
whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself."
— Text of the Traditional Anglican Burial at Sea Service

A burial at sea is a form of funeral where the body of the deceased is disposed of at sea. May involve burning the corpse to ashes and then scattering them to the wind, or just dumping a weighted coffin off the side of a boat. Often an exception to It Always Rains at Funerals, though you may get some high waves anyway.

These were very common in Real Life back when sea voyages were long. If it's two weeks before the next port, you do not want to lug the body around. They still occur on occasion, but nowadays it's most commonly a last request in the will of an old sailor.

In science fiction, the equivalent to burial at sea... IN SPACE! has its own trope, Burial in Space. A Viking Funeral is a subtrope with an Incendiary Exponent.

Not to be confused with the two-part Downloadable Content for BioShock Infinite.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Crying Freeman, Freeman's beloved Number Two Ko Tokugen was buried at sea after his assassination.
  • In Detective School Q, the Broken Bird Mitsuru commits suicide in her house near the sea. Her boyfriend Manabu does this for her, carrying her lifeless body in a rowboat into the sea itself and then dropping her in the water... right before deciding to both kill those who caused her disgrace, and to make sure the case's MacGuffin (which she would've received if not for their intervention) won't fall in their hands.
  • In Fist of the North Star 2, Captain Akashachi's body is put on a boat, which is then put to drift in the sea.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, Shinn Asuka takes Stellar Louissier's corpse in his arms after the battle where she died, carries her to a nearby lake, then gently drops her into the water as the snow falls down.
  • Weaponized in Musuko ga Kawaikute Shikataganai Mazoku no Hahaoya. After Byakuren is killed, her younger brother Cochrane requests that her coffin be sunk to bottom of the ocean. And since their Swap Teleportation powers continue to function even after her death, this means that a young boy who has been driven practically feral out of grief has access to what is essentially a One-Hit Kill (though the one person he actually does manage to use it on is tough enough to survive the water pressure and return to the surface without drowning). The coffin is later retrieved following the final battle so she can be given a more proper burial.
  • In Pok√©mon: The Original Series, Ash and co. tried to do this with Team Rocket when they found them floating on the sea after escaping from a sunken ship. It turned out they were just unconscious, and Pikachu was disappointed.

    Fairy Tales 

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animated 
  • Frankie (Lenny's deceased older brother) from Shark Tale is actually given this type of funeral after being crushed to death by a falling anchor (which prompts Oscar to think that he killed Frankie, and not the anchor), where his body is tossed overboard the deck of the shipwrecked RMS Titanic (the sharks' lair) and floats to the surface belly-up.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Although not actually at sea, in Batman Returns a bunch of penguins push The Penguin's body into the river.
  • In Black Panther (2018) Erik Killmonger requests this, as he wants to honour the black slaves who preferred to jump off the ships than live in bondage. It's unclear if he actually got it, though.
  • The Bounty: One of the sailors on the Bounty is buried at sea while the ship is sailing to Tahiti.
  • Cyclone (1978): The bodies of two of the three wounded survivors who die aboard the tour boat are respectfully dropped into the ocean, although the first of them has a piece of missing flesh the others use for fishing bait. The man who dies between them is cannibalized, though, at his own request.
  • Both Ms. Morgan and Lori receive one of these in Death Ship, though in the latter's case it's not so much a burial as being thrown overboard as the now-possessed Capt. Ashland recites her final vows.
  • In The Enemy Below, 'Heinie' Schwaffer dies of his injuries, and is buried at sea in the final act of the film.
  • Happens in Flight of the Intruder after one of the protagonists is killed during the first mission of the film.
  • In The Island (1980), the pirates do this for the members of their crew who died in the assault on the cutter.
  • James Bond:
    • In You Only Live Twice, Commander James Bond is buried at sea after being ambushed and killed in Hong Kong. Of course, what really happened was that MI6 faked his death for SPECTRE's benefit, and his coffin, complete with breath mask and air tank, is picked up by a submarine.
    • The trope becomes a Bond One-Liner when the villain of The Spy Who Loved Me blows up a helicopter carrying two scientists who have outlived their usefulness, sending it crashing into the ocean. The villain then cancels their payment and has a message sent to their next of kin about the "tragic accident" and the fact that "The funeral was at sea."
  • Kona Coast: The film is set in Hawaii, and Charlie, an old fisherman, asks for and after he dies gets "a real Hawaiian funeral." This apparently entails the deceased being sent out to sea in a canoe while the mourners throw leis.
  • In The Long Voyage Home, this is done for Yank after he dies of a punctured lung while his merchant vessel is making a perilous journey through U-boat infested waters.
  • In Man in the Wilderness, Zach flashes back to his mother dying of cholera during their voyage to America and being thrown overboard.
  • At the end of Master and Commander: The Far Side Of The World, all of the recently killed crew are given a funeral at sea.
    • Earlier in the film a memorial service is held for a midshipman who committed suicide by jumping overboard.
  • Run Silent, Run Deep ends with the burial at sea of Cmdr. Richardson, killed by the aftereffects of a skull fracture suffered while fighting the Japanese in his submarine.
  • She Creature: After the mermaid rips Bailey's throat out, he is given a brief funeral service and then thrown overboard.
  • This is how the military disposed the dead bodies of several fallen Decepticons in Transformers (2007).

  • A old joke that relies on a now over-100-year-old advertising slogan:
    A man went on a sea trip with his wife, but his wife died on the trip. The captain said they did not have the facitities on board to store a body for burial on shore, they would have to do a burial at sea. The husband knew his wife would never stand for it, but understood and allowed it anyway. That night, sleeping in his cabin, the man kept hearing a voice softly repeating "It floats... it floats... it floats". The next night he heard it again, and he knew it must be the ghost of his dead wife. The third night, exasperated, he finally responded to the voice "What floats? And the voice said "IVORY SOAP!"

  • Shield Sheafson in Beowulf. He's from a clan of the Spear-Danes and is one of their heroic kings. Shield dies in the prime of his life. He gets buried at sea in a ship stuffed with treasures. The ship sails off.
  • Bless Me Father sees the two Catholic priests charged with carrying out the Seventh Corporeal Work of Mercy for an old Irish sailor who died alone and without family in a retirement home. Father Duddleswell notes the old sailor left three hundred pounds for his funeral, stipulating that he wanted to be buried at sea. Duddleswell rubs his hands with glee, knowing he can get the job done for seventy and the excess, naturally, will go towards the expenses of the priest who officiates. But one thing leads to another and the funeral eventually costs more than three hundred, the excess coming out of Duddleswell's pocket. Then they discover that their assumption, that an old Irish sailor with no family to confirm his religion had to be Catholic, was utterly wrong. He came from the more Orange part of the North and had he lived, would have objected very strenuously to the idea of being buried by Catholics.
  • In The Coral Island, Bloody Bill is shot while he and Ralph are fleeing from the pirates' failed raid on the natives. The two make it safely to the ship, but he dies the next day. Ralph ties a cannonball to his feet and drops him overboard.
  • The Maarin in Dark Shores worship the sea goddess Madoria and if possible, give their dead back to the sea (if not, they burn them). Burial in the ground is for them Fate Worse than Death.
  • Dive (2003): After Caltain Vancover drowns and the other characters go to a lot of trouble to recover his body for his family, it turns out that he wanted to buried at sea anyway.
  • Ghosts of the Titanic: When the crew of the Mackay-Bennett was collecting the bodies of the people who drowned when the Titanic sunk, any bodies that lacked anything to identify them, or were far too damaged/rotted to be identifiable, were loaded into coffins which, at the end of each day, were read their final rights and dumped into the dea.
  • In Rosemary Sutcliff's Outcast, Beric escapes his Slave Galley by being dumped overboard before he's entirely dead.
  • In A Passage to India, Mrs. Moore dies on the voyage back to England, resulting in this type of burial.
  • In The Purple Cloud, the protagonist is on a polar expedition when almost all human and animal life besides himself is killed by the titular Fog of Doom. He returns from the North Pole to the ship Boreal to find the twelve remaining crew members dead. For many months he keeps their bodies aboard the ship, where the cold preserves them, but once he gets far enough south that they start to rot, he throws them overboard.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "Queen of the Black Coast", Conan the Barbarian pushes the boat out to sea before lighting it as a pyre.
  • In an Alastair Reynolds Revelation Space story, an epic Stern Chase is underway between two vessels that routinely approach the speed of light. The second in command of the pursuing vessel is dying, and requests that her body be fired forward the next time the ship is at top speed. She jokes, grimly, that it's an old pirate custom: Burial at Cee. She even points out that the joke only makes sense in a language that hasn't been spoken in Millennia.
  • An odd interlude in The Sea Wolf involves the death of a sealer and his subsequent burial at sea, with a search being made of the Ghost to locate a bible among the mostly godless crew so some appropriate words can be read.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Forever (2014) this is Henry's fate after he's shot by the captain of the Empress of Africa because he refused to step aside and let an African man be murdered. In "Dead Men Tell Long Tales" the fact that this trope didn't happen to an African captive is Henry's first clue that something major happened on the ship after his own (first) death; it turns out the key to the shackles and cell door Henry had stolen to free the Africans had fallen from his dead hand within the reach of the African man he'd told he would give it to, and they had successfully risen up against the slavers and taken control of the ship. The African man's body was thus placed in a coffin with great respect, but the coffin was still aboard when the ship sank, to be rediscovered two hundred years later.
  • Homeland follows the real life precedent of Osama Bin Laden's burial at sea with dead terrorist leader Abu Nazir.
  • Many seamen in Horatio Hornblower die during battles at sea, and some funerals are shown, all Wooden Ships and Iron Men style.
    • In "The Even Chance", a man from Hornblower's division dies after a cannonball tore off his leg. Hornblower's concern for him (and for his men during the funeral) marks the point where his men start to respect him.
    • In "The Examination for Lieutenant", Finch who previously saved Hornblower's life dies and has a funeral. They also sell his stuff in order to gain money to support his widow. The dead man's only friend ended up buying everything for a large sum of money (for a workaday sailor) and immediately threw it all overboard as a death offering.
    • At the beginning of "Retribution", quite a few men who died during a battle with Spaniards are prepared to be buried at sea, and boatswain Matthews is shown to be particularly caring about giving them a decent send-off.
  • House of the Dragon: Laena Velaryon is put in a sarcophagus with an elaborate ivory-like recumbent figure and is dropped at sea with the god Triton being invoked, per her family's Wooden Ships and Iron Men traditions.
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022): In "A Vile Hunger for Your Hammering Heart", while Bruce was spying on Claudia, he had witnessed her dumping the bodies of her human prey into the Missouri River, so when they meet, he informs her that she was being careless.
    Bruce: You've been sloppy out in Jefferson City.
    Claudia: How long you been followin'—
    Bruce: You shouldn't dump bodies in the Missouri. Even if you weigh 'em down with rocks, river's too fast. I find you build a shallow grave, sometimes a prairie wind'll catch, burns faster.
  • JAG: At the end of "Need to Know", the families of the crew of a submarine that foundered off the Soviet coast in 1968, on a secret mission, gets to see a declassified film of the burial at sea that took place shortly after recovery of the wreckage.
  • In the Law & Order episode "Corpus Delicti" a con man kills his girlfriend when she's supposed to be on a cruise and rents a sailboat to sink her body in New York Harbor. Jack intentionally oversteps in court to get a mistrial so that the cops will have more time to dredge the harbor.
  • In MythQuest, Seth floats Osiris' body down the Nile to get rid of it and prevent Isis from resurrecting him.
  • An odd variation occurs in an early episode of NCIS—when a sailor on a submarine commits suicide, his body is originally stored in a body bag in the sub's freezer. Gibbs, however, realizes that this is a Thanatos Gambit to poison the crew with a cold-activated sarin gas capsule, so the sailor's body is immediately put into a torpedo tube and jettisoned.
    • Season 17 has an ex-Navy named Joe Smith cajole Gibbs's team to prove that he was in the USS Arizona during the Pearl Harbor attacks so that once he died, he would be buried in the sunken battleship. However, since he was a minor at that time, he snuck in using his older brother's papers, so there was no real proof that he was on board Arizona when the Japanese attacked aside from stories of how it felt like during the attack and repeatedly showing his scarred arm. The team aside from Gibbs was convinced he was relating using constructed memories, possibly from his brother whose name he used to get onboard, or was too scarred by the war that he did not know what was real from fiction anymore. He died being unable to prove the veracity of his claims, however his autopsy showed that shards of metal were lodged inside the arm, and they were able to prove that these did come from Arizona, putting him in the ship at the time of the attack. He got his wish, and was laid to rest beside his brothers-in-arms at sea.
  • Once Upon a Time: Hook buries his murdered love this way.
  • The World War II Mini Series The Sinking of the Laconia begins with one of these on a U-boat. And it's not the last, either.
  • In The Sopranos, after Tony Soprano and his gang kill Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero (who they believe has betrayed them), they wrap up his body and, with heavy hearts, give it a decent burial at sea.
  • In The X-Files, Scully's father, a Navy captain, is cremated and buried this way while Bobby Darin's "Somewhere Beyond the Sea" (his and Maggie's wedding song) plays in the background. Scully is upset, saying that her father was entitled to a full burial at Arlington, while her mother replies that he would have wanted it this way.

  • "Buried at Sea" by the Poxy Boggards is about, well, a sailor getting buried at sea, with most of the song being about how much of a colossal jackass he was and how little they'll miss him. Then comes the ending...
    At least you look dead,
    But no experts are we,
    So dead or alive you're now buried at sea!
  • The Folk song "Deep Blue Sea", alternatively titled "Willy and the Deep Blue Sea" recounts the process of burial at sea with lines such as "wrap him up in a silken shroud", and "dig his grave with a silver spade" (A reference to the white caps of the wave action).
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's Livin' In The Fridge offers cremation and burial at sea as one of the options to deal with the unidentified leftovers. The other two are having it carbon dated or fumigated.
    Tell me do you think it should be carbon-dated,
    Or cremated and buried at sea?

  • In the Alice Isn't Dead episode "The Factory by the Sea," the Character Narrator witnesses the strange, Lonely Funeral of Praxis Industries employee Jack, on a jetty outside the Nightmarish Factory where he works. She helps him, still living, into his coffin, and pushes it off the jetty as though it were a boat. Then he shuts the lid on himself, and she watches it float away.
  • Wooden Overcoats:
    • In "Georgina and the Waves," the lighthouse keeper challenges both Rudyard and Eric to conduct a funeral for a dead seagull. Eric chooses this option.
    • In "Putting the Funn in Funerals," Rudyard and Antigone come up with the idea for Georgie to scatter her Nana's ashes at sea, since she spent so much of her life travelling. The episode ends with the trio soaring over the ocean in a hot air balloon, and Georgie spreading the ashes, hoping the winds will carry them to the far reaches of the globe.

    Video Games 
  • In Final Fantasy VII, after Aerith is murdered by Sephiroth, Cloud carries her lifeless body to a nearby lake and slowly drops her into the water.
  • In Final Fantasy X, Yuna performs a sending on a beach.
  • In the Hero ending of inFAMOUS 2, Zeke buries Cole at sea after the latter's Heroic Sacrifice.
  • In Mass Effect 2, Thane relives the memory of his wife being burned in the sea by the Hanar.
  • In Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, this is what Diamond Dogs arranges to do with the victims of the second parasite outbreak on Mother Base. Venom Snake reconsiders at the last moment, however, and instead has their ashes converted into diamonds as a means of immortalizing them.
  • In Return Of The Obra Dinn, it is implied that most of the dead bodies are disposed of in this way, as you hear Captain Witterel's voice tell his remaining crew to "throw the bodies over" at the beginning of Part 2 of Chapter V.

    Web Original 
  • In Survival of the Fittest, Rick Holeman and Jim Middleton throw several bodies into the sea from a cliff as a means of giving the dead students a 'funeral'.


    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Was the norm for deceased sailors, both merchant and military, until relatively recently on practical grounds; storing a body for more than a couple of days without creating a health hazard for the rest of the crew requires refrigerated space that most ships cannot spare -what they do have is needed for storing food- and only in the last fifty years or so has the option to offload casualties by helicopter become available. Most religious denominations have specific burial services for this situation.
    • Averted for the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar. British prize crews noticed the bodies piled up on captured Spanish ships waiting to be taken home for burial. Not only did the sea not qualify as "consecrated ground" for a Catholic funeral, the sailors' widows would have had trouble remarrying without proof their husbands had died. But since that battle was fought off the shore of Spain, transport time wasn't as big a deal.
  • This was standard practice aboard US Navy vessels until the the 1960s, with traditions inherited from the Royal Navy. In the days of Wooden Ships and Iron Men, the dead man was sewn into a sack made of spare canvas sailcloth (sometimes his hammock was used instead), with a cannonball added to weigh him down. By the turn of the 20th Century, the sailcloth was replaced with the man's mattress cover and the cannonball with a 3, 4, or 5-inch shellnote .
    • A notable and unusual case is that of Aviation Machinist's Mate 2nd Class (Gunner) Loyce Deen, a TBM Avenger gunner assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Essex in 1944. A heavy Japanese antiaircraft round struck AM2 Deen's turret and exploded inside. His pilot nursed the crippled bomber back to the carrier, where it was determined that Deen's remains could not be properly removed, and that the Avenger wasn't worth repairing. A burial detail (including all the surviving members of Deen's squadron) was assembled on the flight deck, and Essex's Chaplain and CAG conducted his funeral, after which the TBM was pushed over the side. Black & white footage of Deen's burial is available here.
  • According to the US government, Osama Bin Laden's body was laid to rest in this fashion after being killed by US special forces. They didn't want people propping up shrines at a burial site.
    • This follows a tradition established after World War II. Most executed war criminals were cremated and their ashes were scattered over lakes, rivers, or seas, whichever was easily accessible.
    • The real-life event was subsequently taken as a precedent in Homeland (see above).
  • Interestingly, a minority opinion in Islam for burial at sea is to lash the corpse to two wooden planks so that the body floats. The idea is that the body would wash to shore where it can be recovered and given a proper burial. Most Muslim jurists, however, consider the idea impractical as it would expose the body and leave it open to mutilation by seabirds, and so forcing the body to sink to the bottom of the sea is better.
  • There are two designated areas within UK territorial waters where this can be performed for people who die on land but wish to be buried at sea anyway, usually career sailors or especially passionate yachtsmen. This was the subject of considerable publicity after one such body was insufficiently weighted down and washed up on the Isle of Wight.
  • There now exists an option to have your ashes mixed into a special environmentally-safe concrete, which is then dedicated, set, and placed in the ocean to serve as an anchoring spot for corals, sponges, seaweed, etc., in hopes of rebuilding a reef. They can even do pets!
  • Australian Rules Football team the Fremantle Dockers' theme song includes the line "We're gonna send 'em to the bottom!"
  • In the event of mission failure while on the first moon landing (i.e. they couldn't get the astronauts off the moon and back to Earth), Richard Nixon had a contingency set up to read the burial at sea rites to Armstrong and Aldrin.
    • Coincidentally, after he died, Neil Armstrong was buried at sea. He was a Navy officer, after all. Astronaut Wally Schirra also received a burial at sea after he died in 2007, being a Naval aviator.
  • In a move only allowed by President Reagan, Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys was buried at sea.
  • Done with Titanic victims who were too damaged or decomposed to identify when they were recovered.