Insulation and heating to help microorganisms decompose buried remains in permafrost graveyards
Image credit: The Guardian
Darko Savic Dec 18, 2021
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Using insulation and temporary heating to help microorganisms decompose bodies buried in permafrost graveyards.
This excerpt from Wikipedia explains it:
Contrary to popular beliefs, it is not illegal to die in the town of Longyearbyen, Norway. There are simply no options for burial there, and terminally ill residents are flown to Oslo to live their last days. This is because the bodies of town members who died during the 1918 flu pandemic have not decomposed due to the permafrost, and there are concerns that the bodies still contain active strains of the virus.
This solution would let residents of such places live out their lives and be buried in their homeland while leaving no problems/dangers to future generations.
How it works
While writing this I came up with several variations:
a) permafrost burial machine
Imagine a machine that is parked above the area where a deceased is to be burried.
The machine lowers itself to the ground, forming a tight seal. It slowly sinks vibrating, heated rods into the perma-frozen ground around the perimeter where a grave is to be excavated. The rods thaw the ground around them and are vibrated downwards to the desirable depth (2m?).
Although permafrost excavation is generally doable with heavy machinery, a dedicated all-in-one burrial machine could be smaller if it included heated rods that are designed to pierce through icy soil.
Once the rods are at 2m depth, they remain heated until the soil in the grave area thaws and is excavated with a small digger arm that is attached to the burial machine. The excavated soil is placed in an insulated, heated container (also a part of the machine). Later when the burrial is done, the soil is tipped into the grave. There it freezes again.
The body is placed in the ground. A portable crematorium is placed over the open grave. Inside the grave, oxygen and methane are burnt until only the bones remain.
The portable crematorium could be a part of the above mentioned burrial machine.
Pyre in the ground
The grave could be slightly deeper to accomodate a pile of wood. The body would be placed on the pile and ceremonially burned in the ground. Then the excavated earth put on top of the ashes.
b) Decomposition by microorganisms
If burning the body is against the local culture it could be done by microorganisms. To help them do their job, the grave is insulated by straw bales from all sides and structurally supported with wood. The body is lowered into the insulated area and covered by soil that was warmed up for burial.
The soil is rich with microorganisms - purposefully formulated for rapid decomposition in cold environment. It contains cold hardy species of mycelium, anaerobic bacteria, etc.
The soil inside the insulated area is heated for as long as it takes the microorganisms to decompose the body.
There is more, but it seems a bit too much:) Here goes:
Insulated botanic garden
The above mentioned straw-inuslated graves are connected between eachother with heated, insulated pipes that are full of soil. The pipes also lead to an enclosed botanic garden, designed to keep a small forest going in the coldest climates. The botanic garden is adjecent to the cemetery. Mycelium/mushrooms that live in the enclosed forest could reach the graves through the heated pipes and help with decomposition.
Creating graveyards above the heating pipes or next to the power plants
J. Nikola Dec 20, 2021
What if they used heating or electricity generated by the power plants, private solar plants, or similar sources to heat up the land?
My first thought was to put the graveyard above the heating pipes, but maybe they do not have the same way of heating as here in Croatia (central heating plant distributing hot water to the households). Here the pipes with hot water are placed in the ground just like the water, sewage, or any other piping system.
If they do not have a system like this, then it could be created next to the power plant or some other factory. The plant could have it as a way to cool the system, while it would heat the land and help the bodies decompose.