On Sunday, October 29, 2000 one of our correspondents sent us this report on a visit to the Sydney Northern Suburbs Crematorium at Syney, Australia, which we reproduce without comment:
OPEN DAY AT THE NORTHERN SUBURBS CREMATORIUM
IT's the first time I have ever heard of a crematorium having an open day, so I was amongst the first to arrive at the Northern Suburbs Crematorium in Sydney this morning. Well organised with guided tours through the beautiful gardens and the Cremation facilities and with free coffee and biscuits and TV presentations, it made the visit quite pleasant.
I was however really only interested in the Cremation facilities and process. Questions were invited from the tour guide and my first question was, "May I take photos?" Yes you may.
Q: How many retorts do you have?
A: 6 modern retorts running at around 1000 degrees on a mixture of Gas and Oxygen
Q: How long does it take to cremate an average human corpse?
A: We can do around 80Kg per hour. . . (So instead of very fat bodies helping shorten the process, they can actually lengthen it)
Q: What might cause the process to be extended?
A: Frozen bodies (from Forensic labs or Hospitals) and bodies that have had extensive X-Rays may take up to an hour longer to cremate. The choice of wood for the coffin can lengthen the cremation time.
Q: Do the bricks suffer much from the intense heat and have to be replaced?
A: No, not very often, they are especially made. . .what can cause break downs are explosions caused by pace-makers we are not told about, or bottles of alcohol, friends may have put in the coffin.
Q: How long does it take to crush the bones?
A: Around 1/2 an hour in specially made machines using 5 heavy stainless steel balls as large as tennis balls (see scan) Firstly tho` the bone and ash have to be cooled down for around 1/2 an hour because they have been superheated and are glowing when the back of the unit is first opened. (So if they need an hour to cremate, 1/2 an hour cooling the glowing bones and ashes period, and 1/2 an hour crushing the bones, thats a good 2 hours!)
Q: Do flames ever gush out of the retorts?
A: Never, although the heat can be intense when we are doing one cremation after another.
Q: How much ash is left over for people to bury?
A: From 1kg for children up to around 3 kg for larger males. . .usually enough to fit into a shoe box.
Steel balls used in crushers
Q: Can I come back and get all this on video sometime?
A: Sure, talk to Steve the Manager.