Gruinard - The Anthrax Testing Ground

The island of Gruinard, lies just of the North West coast of Scotland.

For fifty years it was quarantined, too dangerous to set foot on, following war time experiments in 1942. The soil was contaminated with anthrax , landing on Gruinard could have been fatal. The victims of the original experiments were eighty sheep, they all died within days

The island has now officially been declared safe (forty sheep were placed there and they lived). The possible dangers of visiting Gruinard has been disputed by some eminent academics; Dr Brian Moffat, archaeological director of an excavation of a medieval hospital near Edinburgh, said his team had encountered buried anthrax spores which had survived for hundreds of years. He said at the time: "I would not go walking on Gruinard. If anthrax is still active at Soutra, there is no reason to suppose it has not survived on more recent sites. It is a very resilient and deadly bacterium."

The author is inclined to agree with Dr Moffat, for he won't be visiting either. Here lies a corner of Britain that will forever be linked with anthrax, surely it still lingers there in the soil, waiting to rise again.

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