Diving with the Dead

Published: May. 2, 2012 at 1:58 PM EDT|Updated: May. 3, 2012 at 2:30 AM EDT
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Photo by Neptune Society
Photo by Neptune Society
Photo by Neptune Society
Photo by Neptune Society
Photo by Neptune Society
Photo by Neptune Society

MIAMI (WFLX) - Four miles from the shores of Miami's South Beach is a place where tears are shed on the surface and the afterlife begins below the surface.

Welcome to Neptune Memorial Reef; it's unlike any other dive site. At 60 feet below the surface, spanning a quarter of an acre, the mythological city of Atlantis comes to life.

Massive sculptures and statues are surrounded by 44 columns, and scattered around the heart of this sacred place are 200 plots housing cremated remains of those who choose this as their final resting place.

"There's not anything in the world like it," said Drew Johnston, a dive captain.

Plaques with some of the most fond memories are scripted down here. Families come from all over to lay their loved ones to rest. Each visit is special for dive Operations Director Jim Hutsler.

"I've done I'm guessing probably 900 dives in this site. Even today when I went with you, I didn't do anything, but I didn't want to leave," he said.

It's become a popular site for divers since its transformation began in 2007 when we first visited. "Now, I can go there, and its a reef. We watched it turn into a reef," said Hutsler.
Impressive as it looks now, this is only phase one. Artists are hoping to add to it, and one day this could also expand to a 16-acre site with 5,000 columns and 120,000 plots.

For now, it prompts a myriad of emotions developing into a unique experience for the divers who make the journey. "On a really good visible day you really can't beat this dive," said Johnston.

If you are interested in diving, the Neptune Memorial Reef's GPS coordinates are N25º 42.036', W80º 05.409'.

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