Timely History: Gruinard Island

Quarantine is important. It allows us to safely flatten the curve and not spread disease at an exponential rate. Quarantining is not a new idea and even mentioned in the Bible to stop the spread of disease.

Oh, it’s also been used because the British government contaminated an entire island in Scotland to see how effective anthrax would be as a biological weapon. Welcome to Gruinard Island!

Dear reader, before you grab your tinfoil hat and scream, “down with big government!” I will need you to hear me out. This experiment began with the noblest of intentions: killing Nazis. In 1942, the British government decided to see if anthrax would be the new rage in wiping the Third Reich from existence. (Fun Fact: it was codenamed “Operation Vegetarian.” I will refrain from vegetarian jokes but just know I thought of 7.)

Luckily, they decided not to drop an anthrax bomb in London but on a small uninhabited island in Scotland. They brought a bunch of sheep (aww) to test how it would work. Let’s just say the sheep didn’t do well. Amazingly, it also turns out anthrax would completely contaminate German cities and make them uninhabitable for decades. Who knew?! The anthrax bomb was shelved.

Is this not a weird enough story? Oh, don’t worry, now it gets weird. In 1981, a militant group executed “Operation Dark Harvest (which is cooler sounding then “Vegetarian” but not as hilarious.” This operation centered on forcing the British government to clean up the island. They even went to the island to collect soil and send them to officials as a threat.

In 1986, the British government finally got around to it and cleaned up the island. Probably. I’m not going to check and neither should you.

For more reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gruinard_Island

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Harvest_Commando

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/gruinard-island

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Timely History: Gruinard Island
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