The Trees Are Escaping!
Abandoned Prison in French Guiana

Link - article by Avi Abrams

Devil's Island and Other Islands of "Salvation": The Prison Complex Was Abandoned in 1953, and Now Trees Are Reclaiming The Dark Past

French Guiana is a fascinating place in itself (one of the three Guianas, probably the least known tropical country to English-speaking tourists), but the Iles du Salut (nothing to do with "Salvation", apparently) - Devil's Island, Isle of St. Joseph and Royal Island - are simply off the charts when it comes to so-called "grief tourism", i. e. visiting places where terrifying suffering took place in the past... This sinister prison complex of French government dating from Napoleon times was closed down in the 1950s, but as you can see from the following photographs, another sort of activity is taking place there - the Old Mother Nature steps in, and trees are now growing in and around the cells like some giant snakes or tentacled monsters:

(image credit: Tom Parrott)

The islands today are tourist destination, but they were once a place of unimaginable misery: "over 80,000 criminals were imprisoned, and most died on these islands during the estimated 100 years that the prisons were in existence."

(image credit: Hauteboy)

(images credit: Martin Argles, David Cothran, National Geographic)

Here is a panorama of these mostly overgrown ruins (by the way, this is were the 1973 prison film "Papillon" was set, though the filming mostly occurred in Jamaica):

(image via)

Some of the people incarcerated in these horrific French penal colonies were put there unfairly, or for political reasons: one famous example being Alfred Dreyfus who was wrongly accused of spying for Germans during the Franco-Prussian War. Escape was nearly impossible, and survival doubtful: "a common way for convicts to earn money (and get food) was to trap butterflies, which were sold to collectors".

All three islands are quite small and can easily fit in one aerial photograph:

(image via)

The country of French Guiana today offers some charms for those willing to go off the beaten track (no roads were even connecting this country with outside world until the late 1960s): awesome Amazon rain forests and wildlife, laid-back lifestyle combined with great espresso, apple pies, French joie-de-vivre, the wonderful climate and the fact that this territory is legally part of the European Union (so you can spend euros there).

If you'd like to visit these islands (here are GoogleMaps coordinates), be aware of a few dangers associated with this place (which is the main reason prisoners were sent there to begin with):

- Definitely no swimming! The black rock beaches may look inviting, but the waters are infested with sharks (which are hungry enough to bite: you can, in fact, fish for them straight from the beach (see video)
- Treacherous rough currents (no ship could dock to some of these islands in the past, though today some tour operators will take you there on a Zodiac)
- Challenging lack of infrastructure for English-speaking travelers.

They're launching rockets nearby!

There is however one other great reason to visit this exotic locale: the area is also home to a functioning European Union Spaceport! The rockets are regularly launched at the Guiana Space Center near Kourou, a great location for a spaceport, as it is quite close to the equator which gives extra velocity to rockets when launched toward the East:

(image via)

Article by Avi Abrams, Dark Roasted Blend. Sources: 1, 2, 3




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