Devil’s Island, French Guiana

Devil’s Island (Ile du Diable) is the smallest of the three Iles du Salut (Salvation Islands) located off the coast of French Guiana.  The islands were a French penal colony from 1852-1946.  The actual facilities are on Ile Royale where we docked our tenders. Ile Royale has a small hotel for visitors from the mainland. Devil’s Island is virtually inaccessible due to the current and rough seas.  The third island is Ile Ste-Joseph. Of 80,000 prisoners sent to the islands, only 30,000 lived to tell about it.  Henri Charriere who was sentenced to life in prison on the mainland of Guiana for a murder he did not commit, wrote a fictionalized account of an escape from Devil’s Island in his book Papillon using his experiences and those of other prisoners who were sent to Devil’s island.  Devil’s Island housed political prisoners, the most famous of whom was Captain Dreyfuss who was falsely accused of espionage in 1893, probably because he was Jewish at a time of rampant anti-semitism.  He was later pardoned and subsequently declared innocent of the crime when the real perpetrator confessed.  Ile Ste. Joseph was used for solitary confinement and Ile Royale housed the remainder of the prisoners. prisoners sentenced to less than eight years had to remain in French Guiana for a similar period of time after release. Those sentenced to more than eight years had to remain for life. It takes about 2 hours to walk around Ile Royale.  The first photo is the graveyard for French officials.  Deceased prisoners were simply thrown into the sea to the sharks.  The second is a monkey eating a banana, and the third is a parrot which seemed injured.  The next are dilapidated buildings holding the cells, and then you see the Church which seems to still be functioning as such.  Following is a picture of some leaf eater ants carrying bits of leaves down a tree trunk to their nest.  The next is a mother monkey who was spitting at us out of concern for her infant.  Devil’s Island follows and then you see the dilapidated end of a tower which used to run a cable to send supplies over to Devil’s Island.  Ile Ste. Joseph follows and the last picture is of Ile Royale.

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One Response to Devil’s Island, French Guiana

  1. daviddapaget says:

    Have heard over the years of Devil’s Island, and of course of Dreyfuss, but had no idea what it looked like, nor of its history. Thanks to you, I have a much clearer idea. Must be a grim place to visit.

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