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The general backstory for the world I'm building is that the entire dwarven homeland in Ireland has to be quarantined after a S.T.A.L.K.E.R.-style disaster in the mid-19th Century. All 3000-3500 square km of it. Here's a quick map of the area from Google Earth; you can find it in Google Maps here.

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The minimum area that has to be closed off are the hills inside the red inner circle, where reality has gone completely out to lunch. However, I think the actual quarantine line would be along the outer blue line, for a couple of reasons:

  • Most of the terrain surrounding the hills inside the red circle is either peat bogs, fields or pine forests - not great terrain to hold or fight in. There are a few places on the outskirts of the bogs that would make good outposts (Roundstone in particular).
  • The dwarven cities under the hills are heavily fortified, but are not completely self-sufficient. Why risk getting blown up by commandeered artillery when you can sit back and strangle the main supply lines into Killary Harbour?
  • On the landward side, there's nowhere to cross the southern lake (Lough Corrib) between Galway and Cong. That and Lough Mask (the lake north of Cong) are large enough physical barriers in their own right.

That's a lot of ground to watch. So, how would the dwarves (attempt to) seal off this entire area?

Additional details

  • You can assume that the dwarves are humans, with similar needs to ours.
  • The technology, science and engineering at their disposal is roughly on a par with ours in the 1850s.
  • The main trading ports lie along Killary Harbour. However, there are smaller ones at Roundstone, Carraroe and Westport.
  • I haven't fleshed out all of the monsters that the dwarves are trying to keep in this area. However, the most prominent ones are:
    • Orcs. These are also functionally human, but have mutated to develop larger muscles (and therefore have larger appetites than normal humans).
    • Cephaloids (humanoid squid). Basically, a sentient, pesceterian expy of the bloodsuckers from the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games.
    • Terror birds. Because nobody wants to be eaten by a giant, carnivorous bird that should have been extinct for about 2 million years.
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  • $\begingroup$ An idea would be to have a naval blockade using several hundred nuclear submarines equipped with efficient ground to air targeting and acoustic torpedoes given that all you need is to keep them from trading or escaping. $\endgroup$ – JavaScriptCoder Aug 6 '17 at 17:28
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    $\begingroup$ @JavaScriptCoder I don't think nuclear torpedoes existed during the 19th Century... $\endgroup$ – Philip Rowlands Aug 6 '17 at 19:48
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    $\begingroup$ Gah! I mean "nuclear submarines"! $\endgroup$ – Philip Rowlands Aug 6 '17 at 19:57
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Fortunately, you have chosen a time period when large scale earth works were possible. Between 1817 and 1825, American civil engineers dug a 350 mile long canal between the Great Lakes and the Hudson River.

A similar canal from Galway to Croagh Patrick would only have to be 50 miles long, so in theory could be finished in about 1/7th of the time. Call it 2 years to account for planning and setup time.

The time frame could be reduced considerably if you could push your blue line slightly west and thus utilize the existing depths of Lough Mask and Lough Corrib. The excavation could then be limited to 20 miles or less. Getting the canal dug and fortifying it's eastern coast (and the eastern shores of the lakes) could possibly be done in one year or less.

During that construction time, an unfortified military presence would be needed above, below and between the two lakes. After the canal and barriers are in place, that military could be reduced to the level needed to monitor and defend the wall.

All of this is based on the belief that water would be an effective barrier to the monsters. Your inclusion of Terror Birds and Squid People cast some doubt on that belief. So your dwarves may be fighting an unwinnable battle. Given the technology of the day, nothing is going to stop the spread of birds which can fly above gun range, nor people who can swim under floating blockades. It might be wiser to start building fortified cities and defend-able farm lands in regions where squids and birds don't hold such a superior hand.

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  • $\begingroup$ The terror birds can't actually fly, so a nice big wall should keep them out. The cephaloids are another matter, but I didn't expect this to be perfect (unlike some in-universe politicians, perhaps) :) $\endgroup$ – Philip Rowlands Aug 6 '17 at 20:08

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