How Long does it take a Body to Decompose in Water?

What happens to a Body that decomposes Underwater? How long does it take for a Body to Decompose in Water in a car? How long does it take a Body to decompose in Water? Why does the Navy perform the burial at sea?
How Long does it take a Body to Decompose in Water?

What is the minimum time for body decomposition in water? You might be confused that the body will decompose faster in time, and some might think it will take more time. The only thing that will speed up the process is if the body is submerged in cold water. So, how long does it take a body to decompose in water and what happens to a body after being disposed of in water? Keep reading to learn more about some of the factors that play into how long it takes for burial at sea to decompose.

1. What is Decomposition Process?

Decomposition is how organic matter such as dead plants and animals is broken down into simpler substances. This process is essential for recycling nutrients in the environment, and it happens both naturally and through human activities such as composting.

The body decomposition in water process is accelerated by several factors, including warm temperatures, moisture, aeration, and the presence of decomposers such as bacteria, fungi, insects, and other small animals. As the material breaks down, it becomes more resistant to further decomposition, meaning that the process slows over time. Eventually, all that remains of an organism after decomposition is inorganic molecules such as carbon dioxide gas and water vapour.  (See Why are Arteries Red?)

2. What happens to a Body that Decomposes Underwater?

Decomposition is a process of breaking down organic matter into simpler molecules. This body decomposition in water process has three stages. (See Why Do Bees Sting People?)

  • Fresh or newly dead: The body is still recognizably human, and tissues are soft. Gases produced by decomposition cause the body to bloat.
  • Active decay: Rigour Mortis begins to set in as muscles stiffen. Bacteria multiply and break down tissues, releasing foul-smelling odours. The skin sloughs off, and chunks of rotting flesh fall away.
  • Dry decay: Bones become brittle and crumble. Insects feast on the remains, leaving behind only dry bones and hair, occasionally clothing if it was buried with the person. (See What does it feel like to die?)

3. How long does it take a Body to Decompose in Water?

It takes a body three or four days to decompose in water. The decomposition process is caused by the natural bacteria that are present on the skin and in the gut. These bacteria break down the tissue and organs of the body, releasing gas, fluids, and proteins into the surrounding water. The body decomposition in water rate depends on several factors, including temperature, pH level, and the number of bacteria present. (See How Long does it take for a Body to Decompose Underground?)

4. How long does it take for a Body to Decompose in Water in a Car?

It can take up to two weeks for a body to decompose in water in a car. However, the process can be hastened by several factors, such as the temperature of the water, the level of decomposition present when the body is submerged, and whether or not the body is submerged in an airtight container. The rate of decomposition is also affected by environmental factors such as moisture as bodies decompose more quickly in warm climates than they do in cold climates. (See What does it feel like to die by electric chair?)

5. Do Bodies Decompose faster in Water?

Generally, body decomposition in water is slower than in the open air. This is because the lower temperature and humidity of air promote dehydration and desiccation of the tissues.

  • In aquatic environments, fish, bacteria, and other scavengers consume the soft tissues first, while insects usually prey on them, leaving the harder bones and teeth behind. Thus, an approximation for forensic determination of time since death would be to subtract from the post-mortem interval the time it takes for a body to skeletonize under terrestrial conditions.
  • The decomposition process is hastened by saltwater, which speeds up bacterial growth. This results in the release of gas and fluid from the body, which bloated corpses often float to the surface.
  • Warmer water speeds up decomposition, while colder water slows it down.
  • Acids reduce the rate of decomposition, while bases increase it. And finally, more bacteria mean faster decomposition rates.  (See The Mystery of Devils Kettle Waterfall)

6. How does Water speed up Decomposition?

The process of body decomposition in water is sped up underwater for a few reasons:

  • The water provides a moist environment that bacteria need to thrive. (See What is the Main Source of Water?)
  • The lack of oxygen in water creates an anaerobic environment beneficial to bacteria because it inhibits their competition.
  • Many aquatic creatures scavenge on dead bodies, which breaks them down even further.

These factors work together to create an environment where bacteria can feast on the body and break down its tissues. As they do so, they release methane and carbon dioxide as by-products. These gases build up in the body and can cause it to float or bubble up to the water’s surface. (See Do Water Towers Hold Water?)

7. What does a Body look like after being in Water for 2 Weeks?

How Long does it take a Body to Decompose in Water?

Depending on the temperature of the water and how long the person has been submerged, a body can look very different after two weeks. The body will start to break down in warmer water, and the skin and soft tissue will start to discolour. The body will also start to bloat due to gas build-up inside the tissues. (See How Long do Ear Piercings hurt?)

8. What to do if you find a Decomposed Body?

If you find a decomposed body, the best thing to do is call 911 and cooperate with medical professionals. Do not touch anything, as this could contaminate evidence. Medical professionals will have the training and experience to handle the situation properly. If you have any information about the deceased or the circumstances surrounding their death, share this with investigators and cooperate with the police. (See Dead as a Doornail or Doorknob Meaning)

9. Does the Navy still Bury at Sea?

Yes. The U.S. Navy provides burial at sea for its sailors and marines who died while in service. The deceased’s family is responsible for the arrangements and costs, including transportation of the body to the nearest seaport, preparation of the body for burial, and the cost of a casket (if desired). 

The U.S. Navy will work with the family to choose an appropriate time and place for the burial, considering weather conditions and other factors that might affect the ceremony. The burial at sea ceremony is a solemn event conducted with respect and reverence for those who have served our country. (See What does death by hanging feel like?)

10. Why does the Navy Burial at Sea?

The Navy performs burial at sea because it is a traditional committal ceremony while the ship is deployed. It is a dignified way to lay a loved one to rest and allows families who do not have the opportunity to attend land-based funerals to say their final goodbyes.

If the deceased were in the Navy, they would want their final commitment ceremony to take place at sea. When a sailor dies at sea, their remains may be brought aboard either in a coffin or in an urn after cremation. A memorial service might be held on deck if the sailor was lost overboard. The chaplain will conduct the service, and the ship’s bell will toll for each year of the sailor’s life. (See Vending Machine Deaths)

11. How much does it Cost to be Buried at Sea?

The cost of being buried at sea or body decomposition in water can vary significantly, depending on several factors. For example, the size and weight of the coffin or urn and the distance from the coast where the burial will take place. Generally speaking, you can expect to pay around $500 to $2,000 for a burial at sea. (See What Causes Potholes?)

12. How many Sailors were Buried at Sea during WW2?

Six thousand three hundred twenty-nine sailors were buried at sea during World War II. The remains of service members who died in battle and could not be repatriated were typically buried at sea. This tradition began with the American Civil War and continued through to the end of World War II. Must read the article, what were some negative effects of the Industrial Revolution?

Burying sailors at sea began during the American Civil War when Union forces faced an overwhelming number of dead and wounded soldiers. It was decided that it would be more efficient to bury the dead quickly and without ceremony than to transport them back home for burial. At the time, there was no formal process or guidelines for how this should be done. So, each ship’s captain made his own decisions about what to do with the bodies of his men. (SeeHow Old would Martin Luther King be today?)

Overall, the burial at sea or body decomposition in water undergoes putrefaction, and sometimes the scavenging creatures will dismember the corpse within a week or two. However, if burial takes place in deeper waters, this process can take longer. Exposure to sun and air also quicken decomposition. Shearing fish or other carnivorous aquatic animals may remove limbs or strip flesh from the bone before draggers deposit bodies on the seafloor. (See Road Construction Process)

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