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被苏联遗弃的致命细菌战岛屿

更新时间:2017-10-18 18:49:23 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The deadly germ warfare island abandoned by the Soviets
被苏联遗弃的致命细菌战岛屿

On the Kazakh-Uzbek border, surrounded by miles of toxic desert, lies an island. Or at least, something that used to be an island.

在哈萨克斯坦与乌兹别克边境,有一个被数英里有毒沙漠包围着的岛屿。至少,它曾经是一个岛屿。

Vozrozhdeniya was once home to a vibrant fishing village fringed by turquoise lagoons, back when the Aral Sea was the fourth-largest in the world and abundant with fish.

沃左扎德尼亚岛(Vozrozhdeniya)曾经是一个充满活力的渔村,绿松石泻湖环绕四周,当时咸海是世界上第四大海,盛产鱼类。

But after years of abuse by the Soviets, the waters have receded and the sea has turned to dust; the rivers that fed it were diverted to irrigate cotton fields. Today, a layer of salty sand, riddled with carcinogenic pesticides, is all that remains of the ancient oasis.

但是,经过苏联多年的糟蹋,海水消退,大海变成了荒原;流向它的河流被改道,用以灌溉棉田。今天,先前的绿洲只剩下一层咸沙,充满了致癌农药。

This is a place where the mercury regularly hits 60C (140F) in the sandy soil, and where the only signs of life are the skeletons of desiccated trees and camels shading under giant, stranded boats.

这儿,水银温度计经常高达60摄氏度(140华氏度),生命的唯一迹象是巨大搁浅船只下的干柴和骆驼的骨架。

Now Vozrozhdeniya has swallowed up so much of the sea that it’s swelled to 10 times its original size, and is connected to the mainland by a peninsula. But it is thanks to another Soviet project that it is one of the deadliest places on the planet.

如今,沃左扎德尼亚岛吞噬了太多的大海,面积膨胀到了原来的10倍,并有半岛与大陆相连。由于苏联的另一个项目的缘故,它还成了地球上最致命的地方之一。

From the 1970s, the island has been implicated in a number of sinister incidents. In 1971, a young scientist fell ill after a research vessel, the Lev Berg, strayed into a brownish haze. Days later, she was diagnosed with smallpox. Mysteriously, she had already been vaccinated against the disease. Though she recovered, the outbreak went on to infect a further nine people back in her hometown, three of whom died. One of these was her younger brother.

20世纪70年代起,该岛就开始见证了一系列灾难。1971年,一名年轻科学家在一艘称为雷夫·博格(Lev Berg)的科考船迷路驶入一团褐色烟雾之后患病,几天后她被诊断出患了天花。奇怪的是,她早就接种了这种疾病的疫苗。虽然她最后康复,但由此引发的疫情则一发不可收拾,她的家乡共有9人感染,其中3人死亡,包括她的弟弟。

A year later, the corpses of two missing fishermen were found nearby, drifting in their boat. It’s thought that they had caught the plague. Not long afterwards, locals started landing whole nets of dead fish. No one knows why. Then in May 1988, 50,000 saiga antelope which had been grazing on a nearby steppe dropped dead – in the space of an hour.

一年后,两名失踪渔民的尸体在附近被发现,尸体漂在他们的船上。人们以为他们感染了鼠疫。不久之后,当地居民开始打捞上成网的死鱼。没有人知道这是为什么。接下来,1988年5月,在附近草原上吃草的5万只西贡羚羊先后在一小时内暴毙。

The island’s secrets have endured, partly because it isn’t the kind of place where you can just turn up. Since Vozrozhdeniya was abandoned in the 1990s, there have only been a handful of expeditions. Nick Middleton, a journalist and geographer from Oxford University, filmed a documentary there back in 2005. “I was aware of what went on, so we got hold of a guy who used to work for the British military and he came to give the crew a briefing about the sorts of things we might find,” he says.

岛上的秘密还在持续,部分是因为它不是人们可以轻易到达的地方。自从上世纪90年代沃左扎德尼亚岛被遗弃以来,只有为数不多的几次岛上探险。牛津大学记者兼地理学家尼克·米德尔顿(Nick Middleton)在2005年拍摄了一部纪录片。他说:"我知道发生了什么事,因此,我们找到了一个曾经为英国军队工作的人,向摄制组成员介绍我们可能会在岛上遇到的各种事情。"

“He scared the pants off me, to be honest.”

"老实说,他把我吓坏了。"

That expert was Dave Butler, who ended up going with them. “There was a lot that could have gone wrong,” he says. As a precaution, Butler put the entire team on antibiotics, starting the week before. As a matter of necessity, they wore gas masks with hi-tech air filters, thick rubber boots and full white forensic-style suits, from the moment they arrived.

这位英国专家名叫戴夫·巴特勒(Dave Butler),他最终决定和纪录片摄制组一起去。他说:"可能会出现很多问题。"作为预防措施,巴特勒从一周前就开始让整个团队吃抗生素。从到达的那一刻起,他们就头戴高科技空气过滤器防毒面具,脚穿厚胶靴,身披白色法医式外套。

They weren’t being paranoid. Aerial photographs taken by the CIA in 1962 revealed that while other islands had piers and fish-packing huts, this one had a rifle range, barracks and parade ground. But that wasn’t even the half of it. There were also research buildings, animal pens and an open-air testing site. The island had been turned into a military base of the most dangerous kind: it was a bioweapons testing facility.

他们并不是妄想症偏执狂。美国中央情报局1962年的航拍照片显示,虽然其它岛屿上有码头和包装鱼的小棚屋,但这儿却有公共靶场、兵营和练兵场。不过,这些甚至连一半都不到。这儿还有科研建筑、动物围栏和露天测试场地。这座岛屿已经变成了最危险的军事基地:它是一个生物武器测试设施。

The project was a total secret, not even marked on Soviet maps, but those in the know called it Aralsk-7. Over the years the site flourished into a living nightmare, where anthrax, smallpox and the plague hung in great clouds over the land, and exotic diseases such as tularemia, brucellosis, and typhus rained down and seeped into the sandy soil.

这是个绝秘项目,就连苏联的地图上都没有标识,圈内人称之为Aralsk-7项目。多年来,这个地方已经完全变成了一个现实版梦魇之地,炭疽热、天花和瘟疫肆虐,此外,还有一些怪异的疾病,如杜鲁病、布鲁氏菌病和斑疹伤寒等。这些病毒都随着雨水渗入沙土。

The island was isolated enough that it wasn’t discovered until the 19th Century, making it the perfect place to hide from the prying eyes of Western intelligence. Failing that, the surrounding sea made a convenient natural moat.

岛屿与世隔绝,直到19世纪才被发现。它成了(苏联)躲避西方情报窥视的完美场所。环绕它的大海宛若一条天然的护城河。

These are the factors that led to it being chosen as the final resting place for the largest anthrax stockpile in human history. Its origins remain obscure, but it’s possible that the deadly cache was manufactured at Compound 19, a facility near the Russian city of Sverdlovsk, now Yekatarinburg.

正是因为这些,它最终被选择作为人类历史上最大的炭疽热病毒库的储藏地。事情的起源仍然不为人所知,但是,那些致命病毒有可能是在如今名为叶卡捷琳堡(Yekatarinburg)的俄罗斯城市斯维尔德洛夫斯克(Sverdlovsk)附近的一个代号19的兵营制造的。

Aralsk-7 was part of a bioweapons program on an industrial scale, one that employed over 50,000 people at 52 production facilities across the Soviet empire. Anthrax was produced in huge fermenting vats, tenderly nurtured as though they were growing beer.

Aralsk-7是生物武器规模化生产计划的一部分。该计划在苏联全境52个生产设施中共有雇员5万多人。炭疽病毒从巨大的发酵桶中制造出来,然后就像发酵啤酒一样被人们细心地培育出来。

In 1988, nine years after an anthrax leak at Compound 19 led to the deaths of at least 105 people, the Soviets finally decided to get rid of their cache. Huge vats of anthrax spores were mixed with bleach and transported the port town of Aralsk, on the shores of the Aral Sea (now 16 miles (25km) inland), where they were loaded onto barges and transported to Vozrozhdeniya. Some 100 to 200 tonnes of anthrax slurry was hastily dumped in pits and forgotten.

1988年,在19号兵营发生的炭疽热泄漏导致至少105人死亡。9年后,苏联最终决定清除病毒库。大量的炭疽孢子被混合在漂白剂中,运送至咸海海滨(现今已远离大海约25公里)。在那里被装载上驳船,运送到沃左扎德尼亚岛。就这样,约有100至200吨的炭疽病毒被匆忙丢弃在坑里,被遗忘了。

Most of the time, anthrax bacteria live as spores, an inactive form with extreme survival skills. They’ll shrug off pretty much anything you care to throw at them – from baths of noxious disinfectants to being roasted for up to two minutes at 180C (356F).

炭疽杆菌大多数时候以孢子形式生存,这是极致生存技能的一种钝体形式,人们用以处置它的很多方式根本不起作用,无论是用消毒剂浸泡还是放在180摄氏度(356华氏度)烤箱中烘烤两分钟。

When they’re buried in the ground, the spores can survive for hundreds of years. In one case, they were recovered from an archaeological dig at the ruins of a medieval hospital in Scotland – along with the several-hundred-years-old remains of the lime they tried to kill them with.

如果将其埋在地下,孢子可以存活数百年。有一次,人们在对中世纪苏格兰医院废墟上的考古挖掘中发现了孢子,以及几百年前用来杀死它们的石灰残骸,这些孢子竟然复活了。

More recently, a 12-year-old-boy died after being overcome by anthrax that had been lurking in the far north of Russia. The outbreak hospitalised 72 people from the nomadic Nenets tribe, including 41 children, and thousands of reindeer perished. It’s thought to have started when a heatwave thawed the carcass of a reindeer that was at least 75 years old.

最近,一名12岁的男孩因感染潜伏在俄罗斯北部偏远地区的炭疽热后死亡。病毒爆发导致了游牧部落涅涅茨(Nenets)有72人住院,其中包括41名儿童。数以千计的驯鹿死亡。人们认为,病毒的爆发源于热浪融化了一头至少75岁驯鹿的尸体。

As you might expect, the Soviets’ efforts at Vozrozhdeniya weren’t nearly enough. Years after the USSR’s collapse, in the wake of attacks in Tokyo and revelations about an extensive bioweapons programme in Iraq, fears were mounting about the prospect of terrorists or rogue governments getting their hands on any weaponised pathogens. So the US government sent teams of specialists to do some tests.

如人们所料,苏联在沃左扎德尼亚岛所做的努力远远不够。苏联解体几年后,紧接着发生了东京病毒袭击事件,伊拉克的大规模生物武器计划也被披露,人们越来越担心恐怖分子或流氓政权会使用武器化的病菌。有鉴于此,美国政府派出了专家小组进行测试。

The precise location of the anthrax cache was never disclosed, but as it turns out this wasn’t a problem. The pits were so enormous, they were clearly visible in photos taken from space. Viable spores were found in several soil samples, and the US pledged $6m (£4.6m) for a project to clean the place up.

炭疽热病毒库的确切位置从未披露,但这并不是一个问题。那些坑是如此巨大,从太空拍摄的照片中依稀可见。土壤样本中也发现了活性孢子。因此,美国决定承诺拨款600万美元(460万英镑)来清理干净这块地方。

This involved a deep trench, dug next to the pits, some plastic lining and thousands of kilograms of powerful powdered bleach. All the team had to do was move several tonnes of contaminated soil into the trench – in 50C (122F) heat, while wearing full protective suits. In all, 100 local workers were hired and the project took four months to complete.

坑旁被挖掘出一条深沟,沟里铺上了一层塑料,并撒上数千公斤的强力粉末漂白剂。团队所要做的就是顶着50摄氏度(122华氏度)的高温,穿上防护服,将数吨被污染的土搬进深沟。总共雇用了100名当地工人,历经四个月才得以完成。

It worked. After stewing for six days with the powdered bleach, the spores were gone.

这种方法起作用了。经过强力漂白剂六天的高温蒸煮,孢子消失了。

But that’s not quite the end of the story. Half a century of open-air testing has left the entire island contaminated – not just at the test site, but all over. “Oh, there will still be anthrax there, no problem,” says Les Baillie, an international expert on anthrax from Cardiff University. He spent a decade working at the UK’s former bioweapons research facility, Porton Down.

不过,事情至此并没有结束。半个世纪的露天试验不仅让测试场地,而且也已经使整个岛屿都受到了污染。"哦,那里还会有炭疽,不过已经没有大碍了,"卡迪夫大学(Cardiff University)国际炭疽病专家莱斯·巴列(Les Baillie)说。他在英国前生物技术研究所Porton Down工作了十年之久。

That’s not to mention the burial pits of infected animals, with up to a hundred corpses in each, or the unmarked grave of a woman who died while handling an infectious agent some decades ago. “Even when you bury an animal, you have to bury it a good couple of metres down. If the area floods the spores can float back up and earthworms in the soil can move it around,” he says.

且不说每一个埋葬被感染动物的坑里都埋有上百具动物尸体,也不提那座埋葬了一位几十年前因处置传染病而死亡的女士的无名坟墓。"即便你只是埋葬一只动物,你也必须把它埋下几米深。因为,一旦洪水泛滥,孢子就可能漂浮起来,而土壤中的蚯蚓则会将它传播到别的地方,"他说。

Chillingly, there is a similar site much closer for comfort 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, it was the epicentre of the UK’s bioweapons programme. The tests involved tethering sheep in an open field or securing them in wooden frames, then exposing them to large doses of anthrax. Once it was exploded over the island, another time it was dropped from a plane.

令人毛骨悚然的是,有一个与中亚大草原相似的地方,而它的距离要近的多,让人无法宽心。这就是苏格兰高地离海岸不远处的一座名叫格林纳德(Gruinard)的小岛。它在1942年到1943年间曾经是英国生物武器计划的中心,不过为时仅仅一年。试验是将绵羊拴在野外或用木制围栏围住,再将它们暴露在大剂量炭疽病毒之下。一次是在岛上通过爆炸释放病毒,另一次从飞机上往下投放。

The sheep would start dying three days later – “you can tell when an animal has died of anthrax. Just look for a bloated carcass with haemorrhaging,” says Baillie – after which their carcasses were carefully disposed of. The scientists burned the bodies and even dynamited a cliff over some to contain the contamination.

三天后,绵羊开始死亡。"只要看看伴随着大出血而浮肿的尸体,你就能够辨认出一个动物是什么时候死于炭疽的," 巴列说。之后,它们的尸体被小心翼翼地处置了。科学家们焚毁了尸体。为了控制污染,甚至还用炸药炸毁了一座悬崖以覆盖那些尸体。

Just this single set of experiments rendered the island so contaminated, initial efforts to clean it up failed and the site was abandoned.

仅仅就这么一次试验,小岛就被污染,最初的清理工作以失败告终,之后小岛被遗弃。

The only people to set foot there in half a century were scientists from Porton Down and two brothers, the Fletts, from the mainland. They rowed the 10-minute trip across the sea once a year to repaint the warning signs – and wore protective suits while doing so.

半个世纪以来,仅有来自Porton Down的科学家和来自大陆的Fletts兄弟俩曾经踏入小岛。每年,他们都要穿上防护服,划船10分钟渡海来此,重新油漆警示标志。

Soil samples taken in 1979 revealed that, nearly four decades later, there were still between 3,000 and 45,000 spores per gram of soil. Proposals for dealing with the “contaminated monster”, as it became known, ranged from concreting it all over, to removing the top layer of soil and dumping it in the North Atlantic.

1979年取样的土壤样本显示,时隔近四十年,每克土壤中仍然有3000到45,000个孢子。处置建议五花八门,如用混凝土将小岛全覆盖,或者清除表层土壤,并将其倾倒至北大西洋。

In the end, every inch of the 1.96 sq km island was sprayed with 280 metric tonnes of formaldehyde solution mixed with seawater. It was finally declared safe in 1990. Today the island can be accessed easily by boat – though you’ll have to convince someone to take you first.

最后,280公吨的甲醛和海水混合溶液将1.96平方公里岛屿上的每一英寸土地撒遍。1990年,小岛最终被解除安全警告。如今,坐船就可以很方便地进入小岛,不过你得事先说服有人带你去。

Thankfully, Vozrozhdeniya is not quite so accessible. To get there, Middleton, Butler and their team travelled across Kazakhstan to Quilandy, a nearby village on the mainland. The plan was to hire a boat to take them across the Aral Sea, and some guides. Naturally, the locals weren’t exactly falling over themselves to visit the notorious island – “They knew to stay away,” says Middleton – and in the end, they made an unlikely alliance with a gang of salvage-seekers.

庆幸的是,沃左扎德尼亚岛可不那么容易进入。为了到达那儿,米德尔顿、巴特勒和他们的团队穿越哈萨克斯坦来到附近的一个叫做坤蓝迪(Quilandy)的村庄。他们的计划是租一艘船,带上他们和导游跨越咸海。当然,当地人可不想去参观这个臭名昭著的岛屿,"他们知道要远离那儿",米德尔顿说,最终,他们与一些拾荒者组成了一个奇怪的联盟同去。

The trip was delayed, as crew members were struck down by food poisoning. Hours after they were set to leave, a massive dust storm broke out, engulfing the village and the Aral Sea. “It was like the end of the world. We would have been in the middle of the storm in these rickety boats,” says Butler. “I don’t think we would have survived.”

幸好由于团队成员因食物中毒,行程不得不延期。因为在本来计划好的出发时间几小时后,一场巨大的沙尘暴来袭,村庄和咸海被沙尘暴所吞没。"好像到了世界末日,我们本来就会坐在摇摇晃晃的船里,在暴风雨中飘摇,"巴特勒说。"我不认为如果我们按时出发了我们还能活下来。"

The next day, they finally made it. The base is divided into two parts: the town of Kantubek, which was built to house scientists and their families, and the lab complex, which lies about two miles (3.2km) further south.

第二天,他们终于达到了目的地。基地被分隔成了两部分:供科学家和他们的家人居住的坎特贝克(Kantubek)镇、以及在更南部2英里(3.2公里)之外的实验区。

“Even once we got there, there was quite a way to go,” says Butler. The team had arrived from Kazakhstan, due to the difficulty of getting a visa from Uzbekistan – though this is where the base is actually located.

"虽然我们已经到了岛上,但还有很长的路要走,"巴特勒说。虽然基地在乌兹别克斯坦,可是,由于很难取得乌兹别克斯坦的签证,团队先到的是哈萨克斯坦。

They traversed the island’s desert interior by motorbike, navigating without maps – “I think they used the Sun,” says Butler – while dressed in full biocontainment suits.

他们全身罩在生物防护服中,在没有地图指引的情况下,乘坐摩托车穿越岛上沙漠。"我猜他们是借助太阳指路,"巴特勒说。

Though they knew it was dangerous, the gang had made several visits to the town before, ripping out copper pipes, removing light fixtures, gradually dismantling the town and scavenging what they could sell. “When you first see it, it looks like they’re still building it,” says Middleton.

尽管知道这儿很危险,同行的拾荒者以前曾多次造访小镇,拨出铜管、撤掉灯架、一步一步把小镇拆卸,变卖掉他们所能卖掉的一切。"当你第一次看到它,你还会以为他们仍然在建造它,"米德尔顿说。

Today Kantubek is a dilapidated ghost town, in which the signs of a once-comfortable life contrast with hints of something altogether more menacing. On the one hand, there are houses, a canteen and a couple of schools; on the other, the cracked portraits of military personnel, books by Marx and Lenin, and rusting tanks. “It’s weird because there’s this eerie sense of decay, but then there are incongruous elements, like a big war mural of a cartoon duck by a child’s playground,” he says. “There isn’t a single bird or insect – it’s totally quiet.”

如今,坎特贝克只是一个破败的鬼城,曾经舒适的生活与那些昭示险恶的一切形成了鲜明的对比。一方面,有房子、食堂和几所学校;另一方面,也有破败的军事人员肖像、马克思和列宁的书、还有锈迹斑斑的坦克。 "感觉很怪异,既有阴森腐烂之感,又有不协调元素,就像一个儿童游乐场里摆放了卡通鸭子大型战争壁画。"他说:"这儿连一只鸟或昆虫也没有,一片死寂。"

The local gang was keen to get off the island as quickly as possible, so the crew didn’t have long. Soon they set off again, this time in search of the lab complex. “They took us to the front door of the place and said ‘we’ll wait outside’. They didn’t want to go in,” says Butler.

同行的拾荒者希望尽快离开岛屿,因此,团队没有长时间逗留。很快,他们再次出发,这一次是去寻找实验室。"他们将我们带到一个地方的正门处,对我们说'我们就在外面等着'。他们不想进去,"巴特勒说。

What they found at the site – officially called the Field Scientific Research Laboratory, or PNIL in Russian – was extremely disturbing. “The research buildings aren’t cleaned up at all,” says Middleton. “It just looks like they trashed the place and left.”

遗址处看到的一切令人寝食难安,遗址的官方名称是野外科研实验室,俄语中称作PNIL。"科研楼根本没有清理,"米德尔顿说,"他们似乎只是废弃了这个地方就离开了。"

Vast glass tanks of hazardous substances line the walls, while the floor is covered in hundreds of thousands of smashed glass vials, pipettes and petri dishes. Discarded full-body suits, complete with alien-like masks and air hoses, are everywhere.  The whole place has the feel of a dystopian video game – partly because it is (it’s featured in a version of the first-person shooter Call of Duty).

墙边堆放了大量的存放有害物质的玻璃器皿,地板上散落着数不清的碎玻璃药瓶、移液器和细菌培养皿。到处都是丢弃的全身套服和外星人似的面具和空气软管。整个给人一种反面乌托邦式电子游戏的感觉,这部分是因为它确实就是(第一人称射击游戏决胜时刻Call of Duty展示的就是这个地方)。

Here Butler stepped the safety up a notch and the team donned more complete breathing apparatus that filters the air. “Buildings tend to concentrate whatever’s there,” says Butler. In addition to stray anthrax, the team ran the gauntlet of formaldehyde, which is carcinogenic if you breathe it in.

现在,巴特勒把安全防护提升了一个等级,团队穿戴上了更彻底的呼吸器来过滤空气。"建筑物会把那里的任何东西往一起聚集,"巴特勒说。除了游离的炭疽菌外,研究小组还受到了甲醛的威胁。甲醛一旦吸入人体,就有致癌的可能。

But the sense of control didn’t last long. “We’d been in there for about 15 minutes and the canisters started to become defeated,” says Butler. When an air filter is overloaded, the first sign is usually a whiff of some noxious aroma which has snuck through. “It can happen if you get a real corrosive, industrial chemical in concentrated quantities.”

但是,这种对病毒控制的感觉并没有持续多长时间。 "我们在那里待了大约15分钟,滤毒罐开始不起作用了。" 巴特勒说。当空气滤清器超载时,第一个信号通常是带有某种有毒气体的气味。"如果腐蚀性工业化学品浓度过高,就会发生这种情况。"

Whatever it was, they decided to get out, fast. Butler was happy to camp overnight and visit the testing range the following day, but the others had seen enough. “For me it was quite exciting – a chance to put all the knowledge I have into practice,” says Butler. “But I suppose I’m weird like that.”

无论如何,大家必须迅速撤离。巴特勒希望能过夜,第二天继续考察试验区,但是其他人已经看够了。"对我来说,这是件相当兴奋的事,这是检验、应用我所学知识的机会,"巴特勒说,"不过,对他们来说,我想我可能就像我们考察的地方一样怪异。"

As an extra precaution, Butler took nasal swabs from every member of the team and checked them for anthrax spores.

作为特别预警措施,巴特勒取下了团队成员的鼻腔棉签,检查炭疽孢子。

He had good reason to be worried. There are several ways to die from anthrax, and the gruesome details of each depend on how you were infected. There’s the gastrointestinal route, which is common in grass-eating animals such as cattle, horses, sheep and goats and still leads to human deaths in developing countries to this day. The symptoms vary, but tend to include vomiting, diarrhoea, and lesions all the way from the mouth to the intestines.

他有足够的理由担心。死于炭疽热的情形有好几种,而这些可怕的细节都取决于你是如何被感染的。有一种是通过胃肠,在食草动物如牛、马、绵羊和山羊中常见,至今仍在发展中国家导致人类死亡。这些症状各不相同,但往往都有呕吐、腹泻以及口腔到肠道的病变。

Failing that, skin contact alone is often enough; back in 19th Century Yorkshire, so-called “woolsorters disease” was an occupational hazard for people who worked in the textile industry.

除了这些,单单皮肤接触就足以致命。在19世纪的约克郡(Yorkshire),"羊毛工病"是从事棉纺业工作的人们的职业病。

But by far the most unpleasant fate is to inhale some. Once a spore makes its way into the body, first it hitches a lift to the lymph nodes. There the spores begin to hatch and multiply – eventually spilling out into the bloodstream and leading to widespread tissue damage and internal bleeding. It’s thought that the whole process can take months to complete, but in the end, at least eight out of 10 people die in the process.

不过,到目前为止,最糟糕的情形是吸入。一旦孢子进入身体,它会首先进入淋巴结。在那里,孢子开始孵化繁殖,并最终流入血液,导致大面积组织损伤和内出血。整个过程可能需要几个月才能完成,但最终的结果是,每10个人中就至少有8个人死于这个过程。

“It’s probably an ideal biological weapon as is,” says Talima Pearson, a biologist from Northern Arizona University who helped to sequence the strain that caused the outbreak at Sverdlovsk. “They were probably getting it from out in the wild.”

"这可能是一种理想的生物武器,"北亚利桑那大学生物学家塔尔玛·皮尔森(Talima Pearson)说,他参与了导致斯维尔德洛夫斯克(Sverdlovsk)爆发的病毒株的测序。"他们可能是在野外把它弄出来的。"

And not all of it was ordinary anthrax. Aralsk-7 was built amidst a bioweapons arms race with the US and the UK – a perilous mission to take already-lethal pathogens and make them even more hardy, infectious and deadly. Pains were taken to ensure bacteria were resistant to antibiotics and viruses could infect even those who had been vaccinated.

不是所有的都是普通的炭疽热。Aralsk-7是在(苏联)与美国和英国进行生物武器军备竞赛中创造出来的。这是一项危险的任务,需要获取致命病菌,并使得其更顽强、更具传染性和杀伤能力。为了让细菌对抗生素有耐药性,病毒能够感染那些接种过疫苗的人,人们煞费苦心。

To achieve this, the scientists grew up industrial quantities of pathogens collected from the wild and honed in on those with the right characteristics. “The more material, the more chances there are to find what you’re looking for,” says Baillie.

为了达到这一目标,科学家们对从野外收集的病原体进行工业化培育,并对具备恰当特性的病菌进行提炼。"素材越多,就越有可能找到你想要的东西,"巴特勒说。

But on 10 April, 1972, the three signed a treaty agreeing to give it up. This is precisely the moment that the Soviets launched the most terrifying programme yet. This time, they would use the emerging science of molecular genetics. These bioweapons would be designed, not just cultivated.

不过,在1972年4月10日,三国签署了一项协议,同意放弃(生物武器军备竞赛)。当时,苏联刚刚启动这一极端恐怖的计划,通过采用最新分子遗传科学,制造生物武器,而不只是培育。

This included a particularly nasty strain of anthrax, known to researchers as STI. For starters, it was resistant to an impressive array of antibiotics, including penicillin, rifampin, tetracycline, chloramphenicol, macrolides and lincomycin. But that’s not the only reason you really, really don’t want to be infected by STI.

在这其中,有一种特别讨厌的炭疽菌,研究人员称其STI。首先,它对一系抗生素都具有耐药性,包括青霉素、利福平、四环素、氯霉素、大环内酯类抗生素和林可霉素。但这并不是你非常不希望被STI感染的唯一原因。

As if regular anthrax wasn’t bad enough, the scientists decided this natural killer needed a final flourish: toxins which can rupture red blood cells and rot human tissue. Scientists took the genes from a close relative, Bacillus cereus, and added them using the latest scientific techniques.

似乎觉得普通炭疽病还不够厉害,科学家们决定为这一天然杀手做终极增效:添加一种可以破坏红血球和腐烂人体组织的毒素。科学家们从它的一个近亲芽孢杆菌—蜡样芽胞杆菌(Bacillus cereus)获取基因,并通过最新的科学技术添加这些基因。

Anthrax naturally grows in clumps, but these can get caught up in the nostrils and don’t always lead to an infection. So the Soviets liked to grind them down using industrial machinery.  The final result is just five micrometres long – at least 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair. “That’s the perfect size to be inhaled,” says Butler.

自然状态下,炭疽病成簇状生长。它们可以通过鼻孔吸入,不过,不是必然会引起感染。因此,苏联人希望用工业机械来研磨它们。最终的结果只有5微米长,比人类的头发宽度还要窄30倍。"这是人体吸入的最佳尺寸,"巴特勒说。

Before the team left for the island, Butler constructed a decontamination zone on the beach – basically just an outdoor tap – and stockpiled antibacterial soap. When they returned, every member stripped down naked and scrubbed themselves clean. “We had to make sure we didn’t have any spores in the, erm, hairy parts of our bodies,” he says.

在团队前往该岛之前,巴特勒在海滩上建造了一个净化区并储存有抗菌肥皂,说是净化区,其实只是一个室外水龙头。返回时,每个成员都脱光衣服,将身子擦洗干净。 "我们必须确保我们的身体有毛发的地方没有任何孢子。"他解释说。

Thankfully the team’s swabs came back negative and even the salvage-seekers, who refused their offer of protective gear, escaped unscathed. For the moment, the anthrax at Vozrozhdeniya remains in the ground.

幸运的是,团队化验标本显示为阴性,就连拒绝使用保护装置的拾荒人员也都毫发无损。目前,沃左扎德尼亚岛的炭疽病毒仍然在地下。

But what of the mysterious outbreaks in the 1970s and 80s? It’s now known that the Lev Berg strayed into an aerosol cloud of weaponised smallpox that had recently been exploded on the island. The incident was suppressed by the Soviet powers of the time, including KGB boss Yuri Andropov who later became Soviet premier. It’s not known exactly which strain they were infected with, but according to David Evans, a virologist at the University of Alberta, Canada, it’s likely to have been India-1967.

但是,20世纪70年代和80年代的神秘爆发情形是怎么回事呢?目前人们只知道雷夫.博格号误入了刚刚在岛上爆炸的生化武器天花的雾化云中。当时的苏联政府将这一事件压制了下来,克格勃头头、后来成为苏联总理的尤里·安德罗波夫参与了事件的封锁。人们无法准确了解他们感染了哪种菌株,不过,根据加拿大阿尔伯塔大学(University of Alberta, Canada)病毒学家戴维·埃文斯(David Evans)说,很可能是代号India-1967的菌株。

“We know this because this is the strain the Soviets sequenced,” says Evans. “They used a very old fashioned method which required astonishing quantities of DNA to do it, so it makes sense that they’d sequence the same one that they were weaponising.”

"我们知道这一点,因为这是苏联测序的菌株," 埃文斯说:"他们使用了一种非常古老的方法,需要使用惊人数量的DNA,因此,可以推断他们测序的菌株正是他们用来制造武器的同一种。"

This was a highly virulent strain, first isolated from an Indian man who brought it to Moscow in 1967. There are two possible reasons it was able to infect those who had already been vaccinated: the vaccination didn’t work, or they were exposed to a particularly high dose.

这是一种高度致命的毒株,最初是从一名1967年将其传入莫斯科的印度人身上分离出来的。它能够感染那些已经接种过疫苗的人,原因可能有以下两点:疫苗不起作用,或者他们感染的剂量特别高。

“The Soviet vaccine was criticised, so it’s possible it just wasn’t working very well,” says Evans. “And a very high dose of anything can overcome an immunisation.” If the vaccine wasn’t working, India-1967 would have been a particularly dangerous virus to be exposed to.

"苏联制疫苗受到了批评,有可能是效果不太好," 埃文斯说:"任何东西剂量过高都可能导致免疫功能被破坏。"如果疫苗不起作用,India-1967将会是一种特别危险的病毒。

So could the island still be infectious today? “Oh it would be long gone,” says Evans. The Russians recently rediscovered the victims of a smallpox epidemic in Siberia, after melting permafrost exposed their graves. Though their corpses had been frozen solid for 120 years, the scientists didn’t find any virus – just its DNA.

如今这座岛岛屿还具有传染性吗?"哦,它早就没有传染性了,"埃文斯说。最近,俄罗斯重新发现了西伯利亚一次天花流行病受害者的遗体,随着冻土融化,他们的坟墓被裸露在外。尸体已经被冰冻120年,除了病毒的DNA,科学家没有发现任何病毒。

Evans works on the vaccine strain of the virus, which is related but only causes a localised skin infection. “Even in my lab where we store it in a -80C (-112F) freezer under ideal conditions, the virus slowly loses infectivity over time,” he says.

埃文斯从事病毒疫苗菌株研究,与病毒有接触,不过,只是导致了局部皮肤感染。"在我的实验室里,我们将它储存在零下80摄氏度(零下112华氏度)的冰箱里这一理想条件下,随着时间的推移,病毒会慢慢失去传染性。"他说。

As for the plague, though the Soviets were working on weaponising it, the bacteria remains widespread in Central Asia to this day – in fact, the number of cases increased sharply after the USSR collapsed.  Which just leaves us with the fish and the antelope. Both remain a mystery, but the widespread pollution in the Aral Sea at the time and more recent mass antelope die-offs suggest that both had alternative causes.

至于鼠疫,尽管苏联曾努力将其武器化,但时至今日,这种细菌在中亚地区仍然普遍存在。事实上,苏联解体后,感染病例数量急剧增加。留给人们的仅有鱼和羚羊,但这两件事至今仍然是谜。不过,咸海其时的广泛污染以及羚羊新近的大规模死亡在提醒人们,也许这两件事都还有其它促成原因。

Translated into English, Vozrozhdeniya means “rebirth”. Let’s hope the island’s pathogens don’t experience one any time soon.

翻译成英语,沃左扎德尼亚岛的意思是"重生"。让我们祈福,岛上的病原菌无论何时也不要经历一次"重生"。

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