23. Gruinard Island, Wester Ross. (NG 943 940)
In 1941, the 520-acre Gruinard Island in Wester Ross was poisoned
with anthrax as a testing ground for chemical and biological warfare.
The anthrax released by the explosions on the island was tested
on a flock of sheep to test the possibility of using, as a last
resort, chemical warfare on German cities. The sheep began to die
three days after being subjected to the poison and although the
government believed the tests to be successful, anthrax was never
used against German cities in the Second World War.
In 1986 the government made the decision to clean up the island
and after prolonged treatment it was declared safe in 1990.
Amongst the scientists who took part in the de-contamination of
the island was Dr. David Kelly, whose suicide in July 2003 forced
an inquiry into allegations that the government altered an intelligence
report to advance the case for war in Iraq. In 1986, Dr. Kelly was
the head of microbiology at the Chemical Defence Establishment,
Porton Down, and was heavily involved in the clean up of Gruinard
Island. The de-contamination process involved removing a large quantity
of topsoil of the island which was then incinerated. This attempt
to make the island safe was followed by 280 tons of formaldehyde
and seawater solution disinfectant being poured on the island. A
flock of sheep were put on the island and monitored for any possible
sign of anthrax poisoning.
Despite no further cases of contamination occurring, the island
is still potentially dangerous, as any remaining trace of anthrax
spores could make it hazardous for generations.