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The New York Times, September 25, 1898, p.7:


Description of the Ile du Diable,
Off the Coast of French Guiana, South America.


    Alfred Dreyfus has been a prisoner on the Ile du Diable since March 10, 1895. Much interest has naturally attached itself to this small piece of land off the coast of French Guiana, South America, and much has been written about it often with no better base than general rumor augmented by the imagination...

    The Ile du Diable, or Devil's Island, is the smallest of three pieces of land known as the Safety Islands [Îles du Salut or Salvation Islands]. They lie stretched along the coast about three miles off the point where the Kouron River empties into the Atlantic. Cayenne, the capital of French Guiana, is about fifteen miles away on the mainland in a southeasterly direction.

    French historians make first mention of the group owing to the fact that on these islands in 1764 the unfortunate expedition undertaken by de Choiseul to revenge the loss of Canada found refuge, but which ultimately cost France 6,000 subjects and 30,000,000 livres. On Sept. 13, 1799, the English frigates Unity and Amphitrite seized the islands, took away the garrison as prisoners, and destroyed or carried away the artillery.

    Guiana itself had long been used as a place of exile. During the French Revolution some 600 Royalists and other political prisoners were sent to Cayenne, where two-thirds of them perished by fever and starvation in ten months. This city, its immediate territory, and the islands surrendered to the British after a naval demonstration made off the coast in 1869, but were restored to France the same year by the treaty of Paris. The present penal settlement was then established. Cayenne has now 4,400 confined or ticket-of-leave convicts.
    Although the climate is generally called salubrious by geographers, it is heated and moist along the coast; yellow and bilious fevers abound and in a malignant form that is particularly fatal to white prisoners. For this reason, since 1864, French white convicts have been sent to New Caledonia.

    From 1809 to 1855 the chronicles are silent concerning Devil's Island, but in the latter year Admiral Bonnard, under orders from Napoleon III, landed on the island about 100 Republicans, who had made themselves particularly offensive to the Emperor in Paris, and an attempt was made to establish a permanent settlement there. The prisoners cleared the island of trees and built huts, and tried to cultivate the soil; their food was brought to them twice a week from Cayenne. This settlement was abandoned as a prison island in 1864, when a leper colony was set up there.

    As has been said, the Safety group is composed of three islands--the Ile Royale, which is about a mile in length; Ile St. Joseph, and Ile du Diable. A narrow channel separates one from another.
    On St. Joseph, the Governor of Cayenne has a Summer residence, and there is a very strong stone prison there, built in the style of the early part of the century. Here there is also a signal station, which communicates with Cayenne three times a day.

    The Ile du Diable includes about five acres of land. Here the climate, owing to the ocean breezes, is less pernicious than on the mainland, the atmosphere is dryer and cooler. There is very little difference in time between day and night throughout the year, the longest day being twelve hours, eighteen minutes, and the shortest eleven hours, forty-two minutes.

    When Dreyfus was sent to the island, the lepers were removed to the Ile Royale, and a convenient hut was built containing rooms for himself and his guards. Of the latter there are six, which relieve one another at stated intervals, two being on watch at the same time.
    Escape from the Safety Islands to Dutch Guiana or Brazil is difficult, although not impossible, as was shown about a year ago by the experience of six convicts who seized a whaleboat at the Ile Royale and succeeded in reaching the coast, where they disappeared. Particular pains are taken to guard Dreyfus, however, and at the first intimation of an attempt at rescue the guards have orders to shoot him.
    Communication is exchanged several times a day with St. Joseph's, in the harbor of which a torpedo boat is stationed.

How Dreyfus is Treated.

    The only story concerning the life that Dreyfus leads on the Ile du Diable that is at all worthy of belief is that told a few months ago by the Captain of a Dutch vessel which passed near the island on her way from the Dutch colony to Antwerp. The story was first printed in the Dutch journals, and was afterward copied in one form or another into most of the newpapers of the Continent.
    If the story of the Dutch shipmaster be true, the lot of the ex-Captain of Artillery is not as bad as is generally believed. It seems that the vessel, a steamer, while passing near the island was boarded by some French mariner, who asked for the loan of the ship's cook for a few hours. The reason given was that the man who did the cooking on the island had broken his arm and had been taken to the hospital on St. Joseph's, and another one had not been provided. The Dutch Captain accordingly sent a sailor named Weinheber to Devil's Island to act as cook for a while. During his very brief sojourn on the island Weinheber is said to have seen Dreyfus, and to have had an opportunity of observing how the ex-Captain was treated.

    According to the Dutchman, the prisoner rose every morning between 6 and 7 o'clock, had a cup of chocolate, a bath, and, if the weather permitted, a walk. While taking the bath the prisoner's wrists were tied around with a cord, one end of which was held by a warder. This was to prevent any attempt to commit suicide.
    After the bath, the ex-Captain breakfasted on bread and butter, and egg, and a bottle of beer. This meal being over, he read books on military topics and wrote letters and his memoirs, the epistles being always sent to his friends through the Military Governor at Cayenne.

    Dreyfus is also allowed to play cards with his guards, but not for money, as he is not allowed to retain the possession of a sou. At 2 o'clock in the afternoon the prisoner receives bread, roast meat, vegetables, dessert, and beer. At 6 in the evening he has supper of cold ham, with more bread and beer.

    Weinheber being allowed to draw near the prisoner, Dreyfus shook him by the hand and said: "Greet the outside world for me when you return to it." The Dutchman further asserts that the ex-Captain has grown quite stout; that he is not in an iron cage, but has the whole range of the island under the eyes of the warders.

    If not entirely true in detail, the Dutchman's tale apparently has some foundation in fact, for there is nothing to lead one to suspect that the prisoner is not as well treated as the circumstances permit. If such had been the case, it seems that Dreyfus could have conveyed some intimation of his true state in the letters that he has written his wife.

TIME Magazine, September 14, 1953, p. 35:

FRANCE: Gone to Hell
    For the first time in a century, there were no prisoners last week in Cayenne Penal Colony, the equatorial prison long known as "Devil's Island." The last 58 beaten, broken convicts were transferred from the South American swamps to a Paris jail, and with that France brought to an end a prison more infamous than any crime it had ever punished. From the day it was founded in 1854, some 70,000 Frenchmen were sent out to its noisome stockades in expiation of crimes ranging from robbery to high treason. Hardly more than 2,000 ever returned.
    Reserved for political prisoners, the little island which gave the whole colony its name was actually only a small part of the sprawling penal community--two other rocky islands and two mainland settlements along the banks of French Guiana's Maroni River. But the name sticks: only the Devil himself could have designed such hellish discomfort for his prisoners as those that abounded in the steaming jungles of Guiana, or hired jailers as efficient as the shark-infested seas and fever-ridden swamps that stood guard on all sides of the Cayenne colony. The world got its first full whiff of Devil's Island iniquity in the case of Captive Alfred Dreyfus, who spent four years there before his defender, Emile Zola, wrote J'accuse, and brought him back to freedom.
see also: Brazil News - Suriname News - Guyana News - Venezuela News

All of French Guiana
is one time zone at GMT-3,
with no Daylight Savings time.

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    First settled by the French in 1604, French Guiana was the site of notorious penal settlements until 1951.
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Area of French Guiana: 91,000 sq km
slightly smaller than Indiana

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  from QuickSciTech Space News & Links

Arianespace: Guiana Space Center
ESA: Europe's Spaceport

    Arianespace is the European consortium that builds and operates the (primarily French) Ariane 5 launch vehicle; they also market Russian-built Soyuz, and the forthcoming (primarily Italian) Vega launchers. The Ariane 5 User's Guide .pdf is a 17 MB download, and includes extensive info about the Guiana Launch Centre as well as the vehicle. You might prefer to download the Ariane 5 Technical Information Booklet .pdf, which is only 12 pages totaling 823 KB, but has much less info.

    As of April, 2007, Soyuz launch vehicles have flown 1719 times. The June 2006 edition of the Soyuz User's Manual is available in two versions, one for launches from Guiana Space Center (a 6.9MB .pdf), and the other for launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome (a 8.6MB .pdf). This document is loaded with good info and photos of the current Soyuz launch vehicle, which is the direct descendant of the original R-7A that carried the first Sputnik into orbit in 1957. The Soyuz LV is built by Starsem, and you can also download the same Baikonur Cosmodrome version of the Soyuz User's Manual from their website as well.

    The updated Vega Users Manual .pdf is now a 10 MB download.

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    Freedom to Starve. Most were not so lucky. French law provided that anyone serving under eight years had to stay in Guiana as a libéré, or freed prisoner, for another period equal at least to that of his sentence; anyone sentenced for more than eight years had to remain in the colony for life. About all that differentiated the libérés from the prisoners was the fact that the freed men had to scratch and beg for their living, while the prisoners at least got fed. Money or influence might buy a man special privileges, but there was no honest way to earn them. One of the most ironically successful prisoners in the colony was a onetime mutinous soldier who managed to buy himself the job of prison executioner, only to grow absent-minded, kill another convict in a tiff and end up on his own guillotine--after being good enough to set the blade himself.

    Other prisoners spent their days, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., working on Guiana's roads, forests and plantations, their nights locked in fetid barracks. For those who rebelled, there were solitary cells on St. Joseph Island, cement pits whose only opening was an iron grille. Few inmates long survived St. Joseph. One who did was the locally famed Paul Roussenq, an ex-soldier serving 20 years for attempted arson. Paul's reputation as the ace of all incorrigibles earned him a more or less permanent home on St. Joseph. He wrote frequent obscene letters to the prison governor, went out of his way to plague the warden, tried to give himself TB, practiced acrobatics on the grate of his solitary cell, and indulged in many other pranks. For each offense he got 30 extra days in solitary until he had piled up more than ten years in penalties. The authorities gave up, took him to the mainland, where he escaped. Where the jailers had failed, the jungle apparently succeeded. Paul was never heard of again.

    No Deterrent. Ever since 1925, when a reporter visited Guiana and wrote a blistering expose of the prison colony for his paper, Le Petit Parisien, enlighten Frenchmen have been clucking over the shameful institution they call "the dry guillotine," but little was done about it. It took more than ten years before the French government finally admitted that Cayenne "does not appear to have any deterrent effect upon the criminals" and was "not good for the prestige of France in (the American) continent." In 1938 the government announced its intention to let the penal colony "disappear by extinction." Red tape, lassitude and the demands of World War II slowed down the process, but last February the government decided to bring home the last convicts and libérés...

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