I had booked a tour of the Îles du Salut (Salvation Islands), an infamous prison colony of France. We took a large catamaran to the islands. The catamaran used the motor to get to the islands, but sailed back. It was a nice excursion.
The Îles du Salut (Salvation Islands) were used by France as a prison colony for their worst prisoners. The first prisoners were sent there in 1852 by Napoleon III. The first prison was in Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, the second was on the Îles du Salut (Salvation Islands). There were four main prisons in French Guiana, Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, Cayenne, Îles du Salut, and Saint-Jean-du-Maroni.
The fortifications on the Îles du Salut date back to King Louis XV. The prisoners on Île Royale (Royal Island) were relatively free to move about the island. There were about 230 prisoners on Île Royale. The church was the first stone building on Île Royale, built in 1852. The multi-story hospital was built 1862-1864. The lighthouse dates from 1934. The island got electricity in 1934. Île Royale held 230 prisoners. The discipline building had 32 light cells and 34 dark cells (cells without windows).
The prison on Île Saint-Joseph date back to 1898 with 120 cells. It held the worst prisoners in solitary confinement cells.
Transportation of prisoners to French Guiana ended in 1938. There was no traffic at all during World War II. The prison on the Îles du Salut was closed in 1948. The last prison in French Guiana, Saint-Jean-du-Maroni was closed in 1953.
There were a total of more than 80,000 prisoners in these facilities. Many of them died because of diseases like malaria and other tropical diseases. Prisoners were required to stay in French Guiana after completion of sentence for a time equal to their forced labor time. If the original sentence exceeded eight years, they were forced to stay as residents for the remainder of their lives and were provided land to settle on.
n 1965, the French government transferred the responsibility for most of the islands to its newly founded Guiana Space Center. The islands are under the trajectory of the space rockets launched from the Center eastward, toward the sea (to geostationary orbit). They must be evacuated during each launch. The islands host a variety of measurement apparatus for space launches.
All pictures are © Dr. Günther Eichhorn, unless otherwise noted.
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Îles du Salut in Guyane Française (French Guiana) on aerobaticsweb.org