On The Beach
A view over Gruinard Bay, Wester Ross, Scotland from the small village of Mellon Udrigle. Gruinard Bay is formed from the boundary of Loch Broom to the northeast, encompasses the opening of Little Loch Broom to the east with Static Point further south, and on the west side by the Rubha Mòr peninsula, and Loch Ewe on the southwestern boundary. The bay measures 5.5 miles along its western shore, and 4.5 miles on its eastern shore, forming a L shape.
The bay overlooks the infamous Gruinard Island, which is 0.68miles offshore, at the eastern side of the bay. Gruinard Island was the site of a biological warfare test by British military scientists from Porton Down in 1942, during the Second World War. At that time there was an investigation by the British government into the feasibility of an attack using anthrax: to test the vulnerability of Britain against a German attack and the viability of attacking Germany with a British bio-weapon. Given the nature of the weapon which was being developed, it was recognised that tests would cause widespread and long-lasting contamination of the immediate area by anthrax spores. In order to limit contamination a remote and uninhabited island was required. Gruinard was surveyed, deemed suitable and requisitioned from its owners by the British Government.
Eighty sheep were taken to the island and bombs filled with anthrax spores were exploded close to where selected groups were tethered. The sheep became infected with anthrax and began to die within days of exposure. Some of the experiments were recorded on 16 mm colour movie film, which was declassified in 1997. One sequence shows the detonation of an anthrax bomb fixed at the end of a tall pole supported with guy ropes. When the bomb is detonated a brownish aerosol cloud drifts away towards the target animals. A later sequence shows anthrax-infected sheep carcasses being burned in incinerators following the conclusion of the experiment.
In 1945 when the owner sought the return of Gruinard Island, the Ministry of Supply recognized that the island was contaminated as a result of the wartime experiments and consequently it could not be derequisitioned until it was deemed safe. In 1946, the Crown agreed to acquire the island and to take on the onus of responsibility. The owner or her heirs and beneficiaries would be able to repurchase the island for the sale price of £500 when it was declared "Fit for habitation by man and beast". For many years it was judged too hazardous and expensive to decontaminate the island sufficiently to allow public access. Gruinard Island was quarantined indefinitely as a result. Visits to the island were prohibited, except periodic checks by Porton Down personnel to determine the level of contamination.
Starting in 1986 a determined effort was made to decontaminate the island, with 280 tonnes of formaldehyde solution diluted in seawater being sprayed over all 196 hectares of the island and the worst-contaminated topsoil around the dispersal site being removed. A flock of sheep was then placed on the island and remained healthy. On 24 April 1990, after 48 years of quarantine and 4 years after the solution being applied, junior defence minister Michael Neubert visited the island and announced its safety by removing the warning signs. On 1 May 1990, the island was repurchased by the heirs of the original owner for the original sale price of £500. As of October 2007 there have been no cases of anthrax in the island flock.
"On The Beach"
by Chris Reahttp://open.spotify.com/track/4XvCqlCoHwYQwGxHlxZlW3 #onthebeach #beach #mellonudrigle #westerross #Scotland #gruinardbay #gruinardisland #chrisrea #ns