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zulakitten | profile | all galleries >> South America: All Around the Edges - Jan. to March 2007 >> Ile Royale - French Guiana: South America - Part 40 tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Ile Royale - French Guiana: South America - Part 40

Iles du Salut - Ile Royale - or Devil's Island . . however you name it, almost everyone knows something about this part of Equitorial South America. It was one of the most infamous penal colonies in the world, a place I never, ever expected to see for myself.
Three islands make up this group - Ile Royale, Ile St. Joseph and Ile Diable or Devil's Island. Each of the islands served a different purpose: Ile Royale was the administrative centre, Ile Joseph held the most troublesome convicts, and the almost inaccessible Devil's Island held political prisoners - such as Richard Dreyfus - in isolation.
Only Ile Royale is accessible by ships' tenders and here we were able to explore on our own, finding the overgrown prison cells, the ruins of the large hospital, and the many wide pathways around the small island. It was all very atmospheric - and having recently seen the movie "Papillon", it was only too easy to imagine how truly dreadful conditions must have been for the miserable wretches imprisoned here. The islands were used as a prison between 1852 and 1939 and although today there is a small hotel here and some tourism business, it seems appropriate that it's darker history is slowly being erased by nature.
Several cruise ships stand off from shore
Several cruise ships stand off from shore
Our ship's tender brings us to Ile Royale
Our ship's tender brings us to Ile Royale
These days, tourists come of their own free will . .
These days, tourists come of their own free will . .
The water around the islands is shark infested
The water around the islands is shark infested
Remains of walls and gardens built by prisoners
Remains of walls and gardens built by prisoners
Rock walls built in the steamy heat of the Devil's Islands
Rock walls built in the steamy heat of the Devil's Islands
Every stone on that long road was laid by hand
Every stone on that long road was laid by hand
Here lived the doctor - or the lighthouse keeper . .
Here lived the doctor - or the lighthouse keeper . .
Exotic resident on the prisoners island
Exotic resident on the prisoners island
The Chapel - built by the prisoners
The Chapel - built by the prisoners
Ventilation built into the walls of the chapel
Ventilation built into the walls of the chapel
Inside the chapel on Ile Royale
Inside the chapel on Ile Royale
The gates to the hospital from the main compound
The gates to the hospital from the main compound
The hospital, which served the islands for 60 years
The hospital, which served the islands for 60 years
Inside the sad shell of the hospital ruins on Ile Royale
Inside the sad shell of the hospital ruins on Ile Royale
Central corridor inside the large hospital
Central corridor inside the large hospital
The hospital, built by prisoners,is the largest building here
The hospital, built by prisoners,is the largest building here
The gateway to the Children's Cemetery
The gateway to the Children's Cemetery
Sad at any time, poignant now -
Sad at any time, poignant now -
Long forgotten, children of prison warders
Long forgotten, children of prison warders
The Mortuary on Ile Royale (its empty - we looked)
The Mortuary on Ile Royale (its empty - we looked)
Now covered in lush jungle, the island was once barren
Now covered in lush jungle, the island was once barren
Clear enough in any language
Clear enough in any language
Ruins of the dreaded isolation cells
Ruins of the dreaded isolation cells
Hard to imagine spending years in here -
Hard to imagine spending years in here -
Nature is slowly but surely reclaiming the island's sad ruins
Nature is slowly but surely reclaiming the island's sad ruins
These are the remains of the isolation cell block
These are the remains of the isolation cell block
The largest cell block is a grim place even today
The largest cell block is a grim place even today
What little light there was came in by the window above
What little light there was came in by the window above
Iron frame for the bed left little space otherwise
Iron frame for the bed left little space otherwise
The enclosed exercise yard gave a fleeting glimpse outside
The enclosed exercise yard gave a fleeting glimpse outside
In this block were kept the condemned prisoners -
In this block were kept the condemned prisoners -
The reservoir - hewn by prisoners hands out of solid rock
The reservoir - hewn by prisoners hands out of solid rock
A sign nearby tells us it can hold 4,000 cubic liters
A sign nearby tells us it can hold 4,000 cubic liters
Resident lizards at the bottom of the reservoir
Resident lizards at the bottom of the reservoir
Beautiful blue shrub near the reservoir
Beautiful blue shrub near the reservoir
An old map on the wall of the hotel
An old map on the wall of the hotel
Infamous Devil's Island as seen from Ile Royale
Infamous Devil's Island as seen from Ile Royale
Auberge Iles du Salut on Ile Royale
Auberge Iles du Salut on Ile Royale
The island's abundant flowers belie its dark history
The island's abundant flowers belie its dark history
Rooster with his hens on Ile Royale
Rooster with his hens on Ile Royale
Trumpet vine near island dwelling
Trumpet vine near island dwelling
Colourful macaws on Ile Royale
Colourful macaws on Ile Royale
More beautiful flowers on an old island building
More beautiful flowers on an old island building
A closer look at a flamboyant hibiscus
A closer look at a flamboyant hibiscus
The old telegraph station on the island's highest ground (47 m.)
The old telegraph station on the island's highest ground (47 m.)
Paths, roadways and steps - all built by convict labour
Paths, roadways and steps - all built by convict labour
A pleasant walk under palm trees to the swimming pool
A pleasant walk under palm trees to the swimming pool
The convicts' pool - surrounded by shark infested seas
The convicts' pool - surrounded by shark infested seas
A sinister beauty in this grim place of imprisonment
A sinister beauty in this grim place of imprisonment
Here on Ile St. Joseph were kept the worst offenders
Here on Ile St. Joseph were kept the worst offenders
At the end of our day of exploring, we were able to make our escape.
At the end of our day of exploring, we were able to make our escape.