Church officials in Cape Breton say erosion is washing graves out to sea at a cemetery in Ingonish, N.S., and a human skull and other bones have already been discovered on a nearby beach.
The United Church Cemetery rests on a cliff above a beach along the Cabot Trail and some of the graves are about 200 years old, according to the cemetery's caretaker.
"The fishermen used to come and take the flat rocks out of the bank to use to ballast their traps. It made a way for the sea to get in underneath the cliff and eroded it," said Hector Murphy.
"We've lost probably about 40 to 50 feet [12 to 15 metres] off of it now."
Murphy said erosion has been taking remains out to sea for years, but the stormy weather this winter appears to have sped up that erosion. He said at least five graves have collapsed into the ocean.
Glorie MacDougall saw the bones when she was out for a walk.
"Stumbled across them actually, sticking out of the rocks. The cliff above us, there was a skull looking down at us. Kind of an eerie situation," she said.
Besides the skull, MacDougall isn't sure what other kinds of bones she found.
"It was bigger bones, so I'd say probably leg bones or something of that sort and it was the skull sticking out of the cliff above that really stuck out," she said.
Murphy wants to reinforce the cliff with armour stone to preserve the cemetery, but said he hasn't had luck coming up with the money.
"What can we do? We're only a small community. We only have about 12 people attending church and we have all the we can do just to keep a minister and keep the church going," he said.
"We don't have money for anything extra."
The municipal government is trying to figure out what can be done to preserve the cemetery and prevent any more remains from going out to sea. The issue will be discussed next week at a meeting of the Municipality of Victoria County council.