Book Preview
Read Reviews
Meet The Crew
Science Bit
Sailing Away
About The Author
Author's Blog
Top 10 PA Tales
Author Q&A
Free Stories
Zombie Dilemmas
Maths With Zombies
Contact Us


The Geography Of The Outbreak


Spoiler Alert: This page is intended for people who have already read The Outbreak, and may contain information that spoils your enjoyment of the story if you have not done so yet.

The Outbreak is set in the landscapes and seascapes of western Scotland, and indeed the story cannot be separated from the location where it takes place. The first third of the book takes place in the city of Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland. Over the last 100 years, it has gone from being the second city of the British Empire and the ship-building capitol of the world through wartime bombing, post-industrial malaise, urban blight from poor city planning in the 1950s and 60s (especially in the more deprived areas), only to finally re-invent itself in the 1990s and 2000s as a cultural, musical and shopping destination. In many ways, Glasgow is the blueprint for how a city can, under the right leadership, regenerate itself without destroying its history or its individuality. However, in the form of its now-crumbling 1960s housing estates and high rises, it  also contains warnings of what can happen when urban planning goes horrible wrong

Glasgow's decline and eventual re-emergece reflected in the architecture which Ben describes as he moves through the various parts of the city. The final destruction of the city by the military as they struggle to prevent the outbreak spreading beyond its limits contrasts with its current resurgence and renewed presence on he international stage.

It has a not entirely undeserved reputation as being a tough city, especially in the more deprived housing schemes, but this hides its many other sides. It is this variation within a single city which leads to the five people who come together on Ben's boat having quite such an eclectic set of backgrounds.

Once beyond the landscape of the city, the story moves onto the seascape of the Clyde estuary, known locally as a Firth. The Firth of Clyde is an almost unique feature in Scotland. It is a semi-enclosed sea created by glacial activity during the last ice age rather than by the river itself. This means its waters are surprisingly deep in places and, this combined with the high level of rainfall and Glasgow's ship-building history, led it being the main base for Britain's nuclear deterrent. This put Glasgow, and the west coast of Scotland as a whole, on the forefront of the cold war between the west and east. However, the Firth of Clyde is also the feature that, for many years, linked Glasgow to the rest of the world. Being on Britain's west coast, this put is close to the trans-Atlantic routes and this led directly to the development of Glasgow as an industrial and mercantile city of world-wide renown. Without this seaway, Glasgow would had remained the small town it was until the early 1800s and would never have developed into the city we see today.

From the Firth of Clyde, the story moves onto the west coast of Scotland and the many islands which are found there. These islands contain some of the oldest rocks on the planet and many are a legacy not of past volcanic actions, but of plate tectonics. This is because in the past Scotland was joined to North America, but eventually they drifted apart. However, before this finally happened, there were several failed attempts, leaving areas of land stranded half way between the two continents as they separated. In the tug of war which followed, many of these were left clinging to the Scottish mainland, but had things gone differently, the islands of the Outer Hebrides could have ended up on the other side of the Atlantic.

The islands, themselves, are incredibly diverse both in geology and their scenery. While some, such as Rhum, are rocky mountains, others are flat, sandy farming paradises where almost anything grows as soon as it is stuck in the soil. Similarly, the seas around them are impressively rich and diverse, containing many species of whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals and seabirds. Down below, there are cold water coral reefs and an abundance of fish. In addition, with tidal ranges of up to twenty feet or more, exposing rocky shorelines rich in shellfish and other potential food resources, it is perhaps unsurprising that humans have lived here for almost as long as has been possible since the end of the last ice age. This is reflected in the many Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age monuments which remain to this day. However, during the twentieth century, the increasing industrialisation of the Scottish mainland, and the difficulties of moving between islands, especially in the face of the powerful Atlantic storms which sweep across the region on a regular basis, has resulted in many islands which once supported relatively small communities being abandoned. 

Sailing around the islands of the west coast of Scotland is not necessarily for novices. Force ten storms can be encountered at any time of year and can spring out of nowhere, and with no land between western Scotland and the Americas, swells can reach incredible heights. Rogue waves, large enough to crush cargo vessels are also not uncommon, and the currents are highly complex, especially between the islands of the Inner Hebrides and the mainland. Here, a string of island separated by narrow channels disrupt the regular tidal flows and depending on the state of the time, there can be a difference in sea level of up to three feet from one side of an island to another. This creates powerful currents which run through the channels between the islands, and in the most famous case, creating the Corryvreckan whirlpool, the third largest whirlpool in the world and one of the most dangerous passages in European waters. When it it running at full speed, the whirlpool can be up to half a mile across, with waves of 30 foot high (even when there's no wind) and current speeds of 10 miles an hour.

While life in islands of western Scotland may seem peaceful and slow paced to many who visit it, these waters also played a pivotal role in the cold war between the end of the second world war and the 1980s. This is because Soviet submarines leaving their bases in northern Russia had to pass through these waters before being able to enter the Atlantic Ocean. A a result, this region served as one of the front lines in the cold war, with nuclear submarines from at least seven nations regularly playing games of cat and mouse amongst the islands. This provided a significant risk to others who used these waters, with submarines regularly coming up under yachts or getting caught in the nets of fishing vessels, often with fatal consequences.  Thus, the people who live and work in these islands are no strangers to conflicts between their own best interests and those of the military who are tasked with protecting them.


All material on this website is copyright 2013, 2014 Colin M. Drysdale. This copyright applies worldwide as well as on the internet. While every effort has been made to ensure that the content of this website is accurate, it is provided on an 'as is' basis and there is no guarantee that it is correct. While you are welcome to consult this material while on this website, please do not copy it for use on other websites or for any other purpose without express written permission. Any links to this material from websites other than those of ForThoseInPeril.net must use 'Unmasked Forwarding' so that the original source of this information is clear at all times. In addition, this information should not be used for commercial purposes without prior consent. To discuss any copyright issues, including permission to use information from this website for other purposes, please email info@ForThoseInPeril.net
Send mail to webmaster@ForThoseInPeril.net with questions or comments about this web site.

Last modified: 04/30/14