I ordinarily try to keep these posts as non-graphic as possible however this one is going to try to explain the actual cremation process to you. When people think or speak of cremation they really don't have a true picture of what goes on aside from what their imagination can conjure. I hope this sheds some light on the subject for those of you that want to know and for those of you that don't.....I would suggest heading elsewhere for the time being.
Of course there is the equipment. I myself can't begin to explain all of its components but I can tell you it's a very large unit; it's about six feet wide, perhaps eight feet tall and about twenty feet in length and has the capacity of reaching three thousand degrees Fahrenheit although that is not an optimum situation. This is the unit where the actual cremation takes place. There is also a second piece of equipment known as a processor, this is where the remains of the cremation are pulverized into what is typically referred to as "ashes" or in the industry "cremated remains".
Let's assume this is the first cremation of the day since it does make somewhat of a difference. When a body is first placed into the cremation chamber, all mechanisms are off, all flow of gas is halted and the container that is used to house the body should be as centered as possible. Of course prior to placing the container in the chamber another identification is performed as well as documentation. At this time a numbered steel disc is placed at the opening and corresponds to the documentation to ensure identification once the cremation is completed. At no time will more than one person ever be in the chamber.
Timers are set based on the size of the person and the type of container they're in; these settings are provided by the manufacturer and are learned and tweaked over time. It is these settings that determine the final outcome of the process and are very important to avoid any type of pollution from the machine. Once the cremation is begun, within the first five minutes the chamber has already attained somewhere between 100 and 300 degrees and continues to climb. By the time thirty minutes has elapsed, ignition of the container has taken place sufficiently for the cremation burner to ignite. This will now begin the actual process which lasts at the least another two to three hours.
By now the temperature in the chamber is fluctuating between 1500 and 1600 degrees and the body now begins to deteriorate. The first portion of the body to be completely cremated is the flesh that covers the extremities as well as all of the skin, hair and facial features. By the time the process has gotten into the first hour you need to inspect the inside of the chamber and most often have to "reposition" the remains. The bulkiest part being the torso may need to be positioned differently so that it is directly under the cremation burner.
As the second hour closes another inspection of the chamber should reveal that the majority if not all of the flesh and organs have been entirely cremated and the cremation burner is now working on the skeleton. When the timers are finished, the last inspection should show what appears to be only parts of the skeleton; the skull may have collapsed, the ribs may be gone, and most of the remaining bone will either be in pieces or will also appear collapsed and be a bright, hot, white. Now the cooling process begins.
Once the cremated remains have cooled sufficiently, they can then be removed using a steel brush which is attached to a steel pole and transferred to the processor. We also use a specially made vacuum to gather as much as possible to add to the processor. At this point a very powerful magnet is used to separate any remaining metal, IE, hinges, wiring used to hold the sternum in place after heart surgery, snaps from clothing, and occasionally a missed pacemaker which should have been removed prior to the cremation as well as other miscellaneous things. Sometimes forceps are necessary since not all metal can be picked up with the magnet. We also have to remove hip and shoulder joints that have been replaced and anything foreign that has not been completely melted by the heat.
The remaining cremated remains are then transferred into what actually looks like a huge pot but is attached to machinery that makes it act as a huge blender type processor and are pulverized. Once this is completed we are now ready to place the remains in whatever container or urn the family has requested and return them to the family.
It's not pretty or less gruesome nor is it clean or green but it is what a good majority of people are looking for. It's no nicer than embalming someone, it's no nicer than the thought of natural decomposition, it is what it is. I'm not sure what has turned an entire country, or world for that matter, into believing that this is a much nicer way of doing things but it's a fact that's proven by statistics. Perhaps money is the driving issue. Perhaps the fact that we are a civilization whose families are now spread all over the world and there is no longer a need for a burial place since no one will visit it is the real reason. Perhaps like owning an I Pod, it's the thing to do. Maybe we're tired of filling up our land with the dead. Whatever the reason, I just wanted to give you a better look.