The Iles du Salut are composed by three islands volcanic connected in the Guiana, and situated in fourteen kilometers off Kourou. At first named “Islands of the Triangle” by the first explorers, the Iles du Salut took then the sinister name of “Devil’s Islands” because of the strong sea currents which returned their very precarious access, but also some tragic expedition of Kourou of 1763-1764.
They are later reappointed “Iles du Salut” by the colonists who take refuge with it to escape the big epidemics of “yellow fever” due to the insalubrity of the Guyanese climate, and who had decimated the largest part of the inhabitants. In 1793, during the first Republic, we build a fortress intended there to welcome the first political transported convicts, among whom about two hundred non-juring priests. From 1854, under the Second Empire, the prison authorities establish one of the hardest penal colonies to the world there, where will pass 70 000 prisoners. The Royal island welcomed the administration as well as the hospital, the island Saint Joseph served for the ” strong heads ” and the Devil’s Island for the spies, the political prisoners or of common law.
Alfred Dreyfus (1894) and Guillaume Seznec (1923) were the most famous prisoners, as well as Henri Charrière 1933) who described in its book “Papillon” (Butterfly) its stay and its escape attempts. The closure of the penal colony is decided in 1938, and becomes really effective in 1947. Only islands Royal and Saint Joseph are today accessible, the Devil’s Island, most northerly, being strictly forbidden by access, in particular because of strong currents and of a servitude CNES bound to the launching site of Kourou.
Where is it ?
Salut Islands, French Guiana, France