Gruinard Island: why it is so dangerous

Gruinard Island, in the Hebrides archipelago, remained in quarantine from 1942 to 1990 due to the experiments conducted by the British Army on anthrax-type bacteriological weapons

by Lorenzo Ciotti
Gruinard Island: why it is so dangerous

Gruinard Island is an island in the United Kingdom in the Hebrides archipelago, Scotland, currently uninhabited, but remained in quarantine from 1942 to 1990 due to the experiments conducted by the British Army on anthrax-type bacteriological weapons.

Since then, no one has settled in Gruinard. According BBC, Brian Moffat, archaeological director of an excavation in a medieval hospital, explained in 2001 that his team had found buried anthrax spores that had survived for years: "If anthrax is still active in Soutra, it is not.

there is reason to assume that it has not survived in more recent sites. It is a very resistant and deadly bacterium. " According to The Scotsman magazine, the sheep were placed inside the pens and then bombarded with anthrax.

Three days later, they began to die and contamination levels were so high that the island was quarantined for nearly 50 years. In 1986, attempts were made to decontaminate the island by immersing the soil in 280 tons of formaldehyde diluted in 2000 tons of sea water.

However, although it was later termed safe, some experts are not convinced. In 1881 the presence of 6 inhabitants was attested on the island, it is not known precisely when they left the area, it is instead documented that since the thirties the territory was used exclusively as pasture and for other activities such as fishing or egg collection.

The experiments

Starting in 1942, during the Second World War, the island was the site of experiments carried out by the British army to test the use of biological weapons and the possible consequences on the population of an enemy attack carried out with this type of weapon.

The island was requisitioned by the War Department and denied access, later about sixty sheep were brought in and exposed to spores of a particularly virulent variant of anthrax. Scientists detonated small devices which, upon detonation, released an aerosol containing the bacterium, exposing the animals to contamination.

The sheep began to die three days after the infection occurred. The inhabitants of the neighboring villages were not informed of the experiments underway on the island and, according to the testimonies, attributed the presence of the soldiers to military exercises.

During the experiments an infected carcass of one of the sheep was dragged ashore during a storm, also infecting other animals of the local farms on the mainland, the cattle were slaughtered and the authorities rushed to compensate the owners so as not to generate friction with the land.

population. Part of the experiments were filmed by the scientists on 16mm color film, the films became public domain in 1997, once military secrecy lapsed.