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Devil's Island Photo Gallery - Iles du Salut
The three Iles du Salut (Islands of Salvation or Health), off the coast of French Guiana are lush, tropical isles of abundant foliage, great views and open to visitors. Once however, they were the site of the infamous Devil's Island penal colony, called the Green Hell. Ile Royale is now a resort destination for visitors to French Guiana.
The islands are located about fifteen miles off the coast from Kourou, which is now the center for the Space Center, but was earlier the mainland administrative center for the penal colony.
Ile du Diable, Devil's Island, off the coast of French Guiana, is one of the three Iles du Salut (Islands of Salvation or Health), so named because they provided a more healthy environment than the mainland for the French gold seekers of the 1760's. The other two are Ile St. Joseph and Ile Royale.
In later years, Ile du Diable, became part of the prison system developed in French Guiana. Other locations were on the mainland, and the other two islands, but... over time, the entire penal colony was called Devil's Island.
Tours of Ile Royale leave Kourou, about fifteen miles away on the mainland, in the morning for a half day tour. The tour includes the cell blocks, the guard housing, now a restaurant and inn, the Commandant or Director's House, and other buildings.
Access to Ile du Diable itself is strictly forbidden.Continue to 2 of 15 below.
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Devil's Island Photo Gallery - Rocky Coast
The three Iles du Salut are separated by vicious tides and dangerous currents. The natural environment made the islands an ideal prison site.
There was a cable system from St. Joseph to Devil's Island, 200 meters away, for goods and people since the island is inaccessible due to rocky shores, currents and rough sea.Continue to 3 of 15 below.
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Devil's Island Photo Gallery - Convicts
This undated photo of convicts give us a small idea of what the penal colony was like during its operation. The prison was closed in the early 1950's, possibly as a result of the adverse publicity engendered worldwide by the multiple publications of Dry Guillotine by Renelbenoit, first published in 1938.Continue to 4 of 15 below.
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Devil's Island Photo Gallery - Ruins
Imagine how difficult it must have been to live in a scenic locale - with no hope of escape. Over the years, 80,000 men were transported to Devil's Island. They came from all walks of life. One of the most famous was French Army Captain Alfred Dreyfus, who was unjustly found guilty of treason, stripped of rank and honor and sent to prison. The infamous Dreyfus Affair, as it came to be known, as been retold in literature, film and on stage.Continue to 5 of 15 below.
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Devil's Island Photo Gallery - Building Ruins
The prisoners lived and worked in abominable conditions. Escapes from the "Green Hell" were common, and mostly unsuccessful. Henri Charriere, the author of Papillon, later made into a famous movie, tells the story of one man's efforts to escape, but there were thousands more who perished in the attempt.
The climate is uniformly hot and humid.Continue to 6 of 15 below.
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Devil's Island Photo Gallery - Arch
Depending where they were imprisoned, they worked in the fields or in the forests felling lumber. They also built and maintained their prison site. No mercy was given to those who could not work in the heat and humidity.
The three islands were not the only facilities in the prison system. On the mainland, the main penitentiary and administrative functions were near Cayenne, the capital, the largest facility was at St. Laurent, but the one with the worst reputation was in Kourou, today the site of the space adminsitration.Continue to 7 of 15 below.
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Devil's Island Photo Gallery - Chapel on Ile Royale
The chapel may have provided solace and hope for the convicts. The prisoners were located according to status. The less dangerous criminals were on Ile Royale, the site of the administrative activities, as well as the location for the guard's barracks, chapel, lighthouse and prison hospital.
Thousands died in the penal colony. They died trying to escape, of natural causes, illnesses and brutal treatment.Continue to 8 of 15 below.
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Devil's Island Photo Gallery - Chapel and Meadow
The scene looks pastoral and peaceful, but Devil's Island penal colony was hard time for the prisoners. More dangerous prisoners were kept on Ile St. Joseph, while those labeled most dangerous and political prisoners like Dreyfus were on Devil's Island, the least hospitable island.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
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Devil's Island Photo Gallery - Foliage
Lush growth, palm trees and forests cover the islands, and in this scene, obscure the water beyond.Continue to 10 of 15 below.
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Devil's Island Photo Gallery - Ruins and Foliage
Left to nature, the tropical growth would soon cover most of the ruins of the infamous penal colony.Continue to 11 of 15 below.
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Devil's Island Photo Gallery - Hospital
The hopsital was a busy place with prisoners ill with tropical fevers, injuries, exhaustion and other ailments.Continue to 12 of 15 below.
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Devil's Island Photo Gallery - Director's House
In contrast to the prisoners, the Director lived in some comfort high on the hill, with scenic views over the water and pleasant breezes tempering the heat and humidity.
The house is now a museum with documents relating to the penal colony's history.Continue to 13 of 15 below.
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Devil's Island Photo Gallery - Path and Ruins
Over the span of the Devil's Island prison system, of the 80,000 men sent there, only 30,000 survived. Of those prisoners who survived their prison term, they were still condemned: they had to live the rest of their lives in French GuianaContinue to 14 of 15 below.
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Devil's Island Photo Gallery - Jetty
The only way to and from the islands was by boat. Today, people can swim in the protected water by this jetty. Visitors can make the crossing easily from Cayenne by motor launch or catamaran, enjoy lunch and tour the ruins easily in a half-day or day trip. Tours are conducted in French. Shuttle boats leave Kourou about eight in the morning for the hour's trip to Isle Royale and return about four in the afternoon.
Sailing boats are available for charter and your own schedule, but access to Devil's Island where the political convicts were held, is strictly forbidden.
Cayenne, on the mainland, lacks a deep water port, so the islands, with the exception of Devil's Island itself, serves the purpose.Continue to 15 of 15 below.
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Devil's Island Photo Gallery - Shoreline
Devil's Island is now a resort on Isle Royale, not Devil's Island itself. It is possible to stay overnight in the former guard's mess.
Fishing is good in these waters. Deep sea fishing off the islands is for tarpoon, mackerel, tuna, swordfish, marlin, and others, including sharks.