The following pictures are from St. Joseph in the Devil's Island group
Devil's Island and the two other nearby islands of Lle Royale and Lle St. Joseph, make up the Les Iles du Salut and under French rule were used as a place of transportation and deportation for convicts starting in 1851. At first it was just a distant place for political opponents to be exiled, but ultimately it was a penal colony for the worst of French Society.
I wondered if a landfall of Devil's Island would be a good idea after 13 days at sea. Would the kids be interested, would it be enough of a break for us? As it turns out, it was perfect and all 5 Pelagic crew loved their time in the islands, and believe me, getting all 5 of us to agree on anything is an achievement. Mike, being Mike, has read numerous books about the infamous French penal colony, so of course he was fascinated by the history. We toured the main island and along with some relic buildings, several of the buildings have been refurbished as a small hotel and restaurant. While there aren't many people that feel like a stay on Devil's Island is a vacation, there are several catamaran's that bring a few dozen tourists over for the day, or to stay the night.
We arrived late at night, in the dark, so waking to the sound of squawking parrots and chattering monkeys was a treat. We went ashore, enjoyed stretching our legs and hiked through the jail ruins. Amongst the ruins were Capuchian monkeys, Scarlet Macaws, other parrots, agouti's (tapir like mammals) and iguanas. The kids followed monkeys, swung on vines and really, really enjoyed being on terra firma again. We had dinner overlooking Devil's Island, where we hoped to explore the following day.
Devil's Island is a very hard island to get to. There is not a landing and no one goes there. Even during the time when it held exiled prisoners they used a cable strung between the two islands to transport prisoners, guards, food and building supplies. There is not a protective harbor or a beach for landing. No one goes there because there simply isn't an easy way to get ashore and it is a rocky beach with a surge crashing in. We dinghied over and Mike thought we could anchor the dingy and swim in. I wasn't super comfortable swimming in with Ana. Hard pass on letting my six year old surf in on crashing waves into a boulder strewn beach and a nasty rip current. If you timed the waves well you could make it in, hold on to a rock, wait for the wave to go out and then scramble up the beach. But, if your timing was off, there were a few big waves breaking and it could be nasty. So, long story short, Mike and Zander swam in, survived the island, and explored the island and Porter, Ana and I stayed in the dinghy and the kids swam off the boat. Mike was fascinated by the island, so I'm glad he went and he said it didn't look like anyone had been there in ages. There were only a few vestiges remaining on the island, not completely reclaimed by the jungle. The most famous prisoner to be held on this island was Alfred Dreyfus, falsely condemned for treason.
The last island, St. Joseph's, also had some fantastic ruins. We felt like Indiana Jones exploring the jungle and finding an ancient city. Instead of city it was a huge lunatic asylum, and even through it had only been closed for 60 years or so, it was amazing how the jungle had taken over. Whole corridors were blocked by huge trees that had grown up. The spiders were huge and Ana spent much of the walk with her eyes closed, but it was pretty cool. Later that day we walked around the island and found the only small beach on any of the islands. The surf was pretty big, but we found a small place were the rocks had encircled a perfect little swim spot (shallow 3-4 feet), but it was perfect for Ana and we spent a few hours there. The world is getting so busy that you have to go to an old penal colony to find a deserted beach! There were coconuts everywhere and the boys had fun opening them up, they are getting quite good at it, without any tools or knives. Enjoying these islands is a little like admitting to enjoying a visit to Auschwitz. It is such a beautiful place now, but the horrors that occurred on the island were not lost on us. Our paradise was coined "Green Hell" by the inhabitants of the penal colony until 1950 when it closed. It rains every day and nothing ever dries, mosquito born illnesses were rampant while it was operating as a penal colony and other conditions were unsavory to say the least. Many prisoners did not survive their sentence. Those that died on the island were unceremoniously taken by boat and the macabre cargo was dumped into the ocean on the north side of the main island. This resulted in the "feeding" of the local sharks. Between the guards, the currents and the sharks it was thought to be virtually impossible to escape and any attempt was madness. But, of course, the human spirit, being what it is, tries to defy all odds and there were several dramatic escapes. Several of those were documented in books and movies.
Following an interesting 3 day stop in the Devil's Island group, we motored the 8 miles to Kourou. The town of Kourou makes Cuba look prosperous. It was a pretty sleepy town to say the least, but we did find some wifi (just happened to be in an air-conditioned ice cream shop), and we spent a few hours re-connecting with the outside world. We caught up on chores, responded to some emails, did some banking, we lamented on the fact that Trump still seems to be leading the GOP and we updated pictures and our blog. After a short visit to Kourou we readied the boat for an overnight up the coast.