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The Story of Gruinard Island, Location of Dangerous and Deadly Biological Weapons Testing



Gruinard Island or in Scottish Gaelic: Eilean Ghruinneard is a small oval shaped island located in Gruinard Bay, Scotland, United Kingdom. The distance is only half a mile from the main island of Scotland. Gruinard Island was first mentioned in the mid-16th century, after a Scottish priest named Donald Monro stopped there.

In his notes, Donald Monro tells us that Gruinard Island is full of dense forests. That is why many thieves or rebels hide there, a reason Donald Monro to spread religious symbols. In 1881 there were 6 people settled on the 196 hectare island, but since the 1920s no one has lived there.


In 1942, when the World War broke out, a group of British military scientists from the Porton Down Biology Department visited Gruinard Island to test biological weapons using anthrax. They plan to spread the anthrax bacteria into Nazi Germany’s food supply to win the war. The test will cause long-term contamination, so we need a remote uninhabited island.

Sir Oliver Graham Sutton leads the 50-member team to conduct trials with David Henderson as the person in charge. The anthrax strain used is the most virulent type, Vollum 14578 or RL Vollum. The strain was supplied from the University of Oxford bacteriology research center.

The team brought 80 sheep to Gruinard Island, tethered them in open fields, and detonated bombs containing anthrax spores in the vicinity. Sheep start to become infected and die within a few days. After that, the carcasses of sheep are burned into an incinerator.

The team recorded several experiments with 16 mm color films which were opened to the public 55 years later (1997). After the experiment, the team was overwhelmed with decontamination of equipment and quickly realized that the plan was too deadly. They worry that later cities in Germany which are attacked by biological weapons will not be inhabited for decades. Worse, anthrax will spread throughout Europe, even the world that creates global disasters.

Next access to Gruinard Island became very restricted. Britain even had to remove Gruinard Island from the map to avoid misuse of biological weapons for terrorist organizations that might visit there to take bacterial samples.


In 1945, World War II was finished with Britain winning. The landowners on the island planned to settle there, but were canceled because they had been contaminated. In 1946, the Government was forced to acquire Gruinard Island.

The following years Gruinard Island remained off limits and began to be forgotten. Until one day the discourse about the island reappeared after several newspapers received a mysterious message titled Operation Dark Harvest which demanded the Government to clean up the island. The sender even sent soil samples to relevant agencies, such as the military research facility in Porton Down and the office of the Conservative Party (ruling party) in Blackpool.

Researchers examined soil samples at Porton Down which turned out to containanthrax bacilli , while soil samples in Blackpool do not contain anything. Even so, soil samples in Blackpool are very similar to soils on Gruinard Island.

In 1986, the Government tried hard to decontaminate Gruinard Island by spraying 300 tons of formaldehyde diluted with sea water to kill anthrax spores. All parts of the island did not escape the formaldehyde solution, especially the location of the experiment.

To monitor the level of contamination, the Government releases flocks of sheep. After quarantine for four years, Gruinard Island is free from dangerous contamination. The heirs of the landowners began to buy it back for £ 500, according to the acquisition agreement in 1946.

Although it is currently safe, many people remain afraid of Gruinard Island. They consider it possible biological weapons have mutated. Or it could be that the anthrax spores are only asleep so they escape microscopic observation.

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