"Island of extinction": in the USSR were established and were buried biological weapons

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2017-10-13 17:30:12

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The Kazakh-Uzbek border, surrounded by miles of toxic desert, lies the island. Or what's left of it. During the cold war, the Renaissance island was a top secret Soviet testing ground for deadly bacteria. It took more than twenty years, both forgot about it, but the Soviet legacy continues to live. Once the Renaissance island was home to a lively fishing village, bordered by a turquoise lagoon when the Aral sea was the fourth largest in the world, and abounded in fish.

But for many years of exploitation by the USSR of water diminished and the sea turned into dust; rivers that fed him, was reserved to irrigate cotton fields. Today a layer of salty sand, permeated with carcinogenic pesticides, it is all that remains of the ancient oasis.

It was here in the sandy soil thermometer constantly shows 60 degrees, and the only signs of life are the skeletons of dried trees and camels, decided to lie down among the giant boats. Today, through withered sea, the island of Vozrozhdeniya so swollen that it was 10 times its original size and was connected with the mainland Peninsula. But thanks to one of the Soviet projects, he remains one of the deadliest places on the planet.

Since the 1970s years, the island was involved in a number of sinister incidents. In 1971, the young scientist fell ill after the research ship "Lev Berg" passed through the brown haze. After a few days she was diagnosed with smallpox. Which is weird, because she's been vaccinated against smallpox. And although she recovered, the outbreak has infected nine people in her home town, of whom three died. Among them was her younger brother.

A Year later, near the scene found the bodies of two missing fishermen, drifting in the boat. It is believed that they caught the plague. Shortly thereafter, locals began to catch the whole network dead fish. No one knows why. Then, in may 1988, killing 50,000 saigas that graze in the adjacent steppe – literally overnight.

The Secrets of the island are well preserved, partly because this place is not so easy to prove. Since then, as the island of Vozrozhdeniya was abandoned in the 1990-ies, it was only a few expeditions. Nick Middleton, journalist and geographer at Oxford University, filmed a documentary in 2005. "I knew about than to have to deal with, so we brought a guy who worked for the British military, so he filled me in on what we can find on the island. To be honest, it scared me to useru".

The expert was Dave Butler, who eventually went with them. "Many things could go wrong," he says. A week before the trip, Butler pumped up the whole team with antibiotics. They also put on gas masks with high-tech filters, thick rubber boots and white suits like forensics.

They were not paranoid. The aerial photograph of the CIA in 1962, showed that at that time, as on the other Islands were the docks and fishing huts on this island, shooting range, barracks and parade ground. But that's not even half of the island. Was research buildings, corrals for animals and a Playground for testing outdoors. The island was turned into a military base the most dangerous type: polygon testing of biological weapons.

The Project was absolutely secret, he wasn't even on the Soviet maps, but knowing called him "Aralsk-7". Over the years this place has turned into a living nightmare, where anthrax, plague and smallpox almost clouds enveloped the island, and exotic diseases like tularemia, brucellosis and typhus was spilled and seeped into the sandy soil.

The Island was fairly well isolated, so found it only in the 19th century and immediately saw it as the perfect place to hide the dark deeds from the eyes of Western intelligence. Surrounding an island of the sea provided a natural moat.

These factors have led to the fact that the island was chosen as the final burial place of the largest inventory of anthrax in human history. Its origin remains unclear but it is possible that the lethal stock was made near the city of Sverdlovsk, now Yekaterinburg.

"Aralsk-7" was part of a program of biological research on an industrial scale, which involved more than 50,000 people at 52 manufacturing facilities in the Soviet Empire. Anthrax was produced in huge fermentation vats, gently nurturing like brewed beer.

In 1988, nine years after the leak of anthrax (the so-called anthrax), place of production, which led to the deaths of at least 105 people, the Soviet Union finally decided to get rid of inventory. Huge vats of anthrax was involved with bleach, and taken to the port city of Aralsk on the shores of the Aral sea. There they were loaded on barges and towed to the island of the Renaissance. About 100-200 tons of anthrax slurry hastily dumped into pits and forgotten.

Most of the time the anthrax bacterium spends in the form of a dispute, the inactive form with extraordinary powers of survival. It can withstand almost anything from a bath with powerful disinfectants to heating at 180 degrees for two minutes.

Being buried in the ground, spores can live for hundreds of years. In a separate case, they were recovered from archaeological excavations on the ruins of a medieval hospital in Scotland – with mnogosotletnim the remains of lime, which tried to kill anthrax spores.

More recently, 12-year-old boy has died after being infected with anthrax, which was hidden in the far North of Russia. In the outbreaks were hospitalized 72 people from a nomadic tribe of Nenets people, including 41 children, and thousands of deer died. I believe that it all started with the fact that due to the heat thawed out the carcass of a reindeer, which were at least 75 years.

As expected, the efforts of the USSR to rescue the island's Revival was not enough. Years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, against attacks in Tokyo and the revelations about the extensive program of biological testing in Iraq has raised concerns that terrorists or governments-the rogue can somehow gain access to biological weapons. Therefore, the US government sent a team of experts to conduct research.

The Exact location of the burial sites of anthrax has never been revealed, but as it turned out, was no problem at all. The pits were so huge that they were visible even on satellite images. Viable spores were detected in several soil samples, and the US promised $ 6 million for a project to clean up this place.

All that is needed to make the team to move several tons of contaminated soil dug out near the pit of the trench at a temperature of 50 degrees, while in protective suits. Total has hired 100 local workers, and the project took four months.

Worked. After heating for six days with powdered bleach spores were killed.

But the story was far from complete. Fifty years of testing outdoors has resulted in contamination of the entire island, not just polygon. "Anthrax is not going anywhere, it's not a problem" says Les Bailey, an international expert on anthrax from Cardiff University. He spent ten years working at the former research facility for biological weapons at Porton Down.

And yet – burial pits with infected animals, hundreds of corpses; the unmarked grave of a woman who died of infectious agent decades ago. "Even when you bury an animal, you have to bury it to a depth of several meters. If the area is flooded, the debate going back and earthworms will carry them on the ground," he said.

Remarkably, there is a similar place, a little more comfortable than the steppes of Central Asia: Gruinard, a small island just off the coast of the Scottish highlands. From 1942 to 1943, just one year, there was the epicenter of the program tests the British biological weapons. Tests included the binding of sheep in an open field or fixing them to wooden frames to those exposed to high doses of anthrax. Once it blew over the island; another was thrown from the plane.

The Sheep began to die in three days. "Once it is clear that the animal died of anthrax. Enough to see the bloated carcass of a hemorrhage," says Bailey. Then the carcass was carefully removed. Scientists burned the body, and even blew up the rock to close the place pollution.

Only one set of experiments led to the fact that the island became so contaminated that the initial efforts to clean it have failed and was abandoned.

The Only people who went there half a century later, there were scientists from Porton down and two brothers, Flatts from the mainland. They have annually completed 10-minute trip across the sea to repaint the warning signs, and wore protective suits.

Soil Samples taken in 1979 showed that almost forty years later was still from 30 000 to 45 000 spores per gram of soil. Proposals to deal with the "infected monster", as it became known, ranged from complete concreting before the removal of topsoil and dumping it in the North Atlantic.

In the end, every inch of the island with an area of 1.96 km was opulen 280 metric tons of formaldehyde solution mixed with sea water. In 1990 the island was declared secure. Today it can be easily reached by boat, but will have to try to convince someone to take you with me.

Fortunately, the Renaissance island to get not so simple. To get there, Middleton, Butler and their team crossed Kazakhstan to the village of Koyilandy. The plan was to hire a boat that will take them through the Aral sea, and several guides. Of course, the locals do not particularly want to visit the infamous island. "They knew that you need to stay away," says Middleton. In the end managed to enlist the support of the group, miradero...

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