The mystery of Anthrax Island and the seeds of death

  • The mystery of Anthrax Island and the seeds of death

     

     

    For decades, Gruinard Island off the north west coast of Scotland was too dangerous to allow public access.

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    It was known as "Anthrax Island" after it was contaminated during World War Two by scientists carrying out germ warfare experiments.

    Anthrax is a lethal bacteria, especially when inhaled, and it proves fatal in almost all cases, even with medical treatment.

    The secret wartime experiments left the tiny island uninhabitable for decades - until in 1981 a group known as the Dark Harvest commandos launched a move to focus attention on the deadly contamination.

    It began with a letter to the Glasgow Herald newspaper, which said: "By the time you read this the campaign will have started in earnest.

    "The first delivery will have been made - and where better to send the seeds of death than to the place from whence they came?"

    That place was the Porton Down biological research centre in Wiltshire, the top secret Ministry of Defence laboratory.

    The facility was searched and nothing was found. So they searched again and found a bucket of soil near the perimeter.

    The letter claimed the soil contained Bacillus anthracis, better known as anthrax, a deadly agent of germ warfare.

    The government scientists quickly worked out it came from 600 miles away on Gruinard Island.

    The Mystery of Anthrax Island is told in a new BBC Scotland documentary.