Taken from Gruinard Hill, the view is of Gruinard Bay looking across one of its three beautiful beaches, which has pink sand from the Torridonian sandstone. The mist held the coast that day although the sun was shining down, it really did give the area an eerie feel. Although this area is known for its outstanding beauty it also has a dark side.
Gruinard Island is a small island located in Gruinard Bay, which is about halfway between Gairloch and Ullapool. In 1942, during World War II, the British government took over Gruinard Island and tested what may have been the world's first anthrax bomb. It was used to test the vulnerability of Britain against a German attack and to check on the feasibility of attacking Germany with a biological weapon.
About a dozen sheep were taken to the island, and bombs filled with anthrax spores were exploded close to where groups were tethered. The sheep became infected with anthrax and began to die within days of exposure. After all the tests were completed, British scientists concluded that a large scale release of anthrax spores would thoroughly pollute German cities, rendering them uninhabitable for decades afterwards.
Concerned about spreading anthrax to populated areas, the government stopped the tests on Gruinard in 1943 and closed the island to boat and air traffic. It was also noted that several other local villages may have been infected.
Subsequent decontamination attempts on the island were unsuccessful due to the durability of anthrax spores. As a result, Gruinard Island was quarantined and remained a no-go area for many years afterward. Visits to the island were strictly prohibited. Starting in 1986 a company was paid half a million pounds, and a determined effort was made to decontaminate the island, with 280 tonnes of formaldehyde solution diluted in seawater being sprayed over all 520 acres of the island, and the worst-contaminated topsoil around the dispersal site being removed. A flock of sheep was then placed on the island. The flock remained healthy. On April 24, 1990, after 48 years of quarantine, the then-junior defence minister, Michael Neubert, visited the island and announced its safety by removing the "Landing is Prohibited" signs. In its place, a small plaque was lain at the foot of a simple sculture. It read: For air, stone and the equilibrium of understanding. Welcome back Gruinard.
Landscape and travel
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