South African History On-line
Unesco declared Robben Island in the Western Cape a World Heritage Site in 1999. Robben Island is located in Table Bay, some 6km west of Bloubergstrand, and stands some 30m above sea level. Robben Island has been used as prison and a spot where folks had been remoted, banished and exiled to for practically 400 years. It was also used as a submit workplace, a grazing ground, a mental hospital and an outpost.
Initially the island was inhabited by a variety of wild life, together with birds, penguins, seals and tortoises. Its name “robben” is derived from the Dutch, which means a seal. It additionally had a plentiful provide of fresh water out there from numerous springs. Batolomeu Dias, the Portuguese explorer, ‘discovered’ the island in 1488 when he anchored his ship in Desk Bay.
Before 1652, Instead of dealings with the indigenous residents on the mainland, most visiting ships to Desk Bay preferred to land on Robben Island to replenish their supplies of recent water and meat. In consequence it also grew to become a major point for the trade of mail, the place letters from an outgoing ship would be left underneath an inscribed stone for assortment and delivery by a house-going vessel. This continued after Jan van Riebeeck arrived on the Cape in 1652, as he had to settle a station where ships that have been travelling from Europe to the East Indies, he didn’t want to cease on the mainland, may get recent food and water. There were loads of seals, tortoises and penguins for hunting. The Dutch additionally started to make use of the island as a grazing station for sheep and cattle.
Prisoners lined up on arrival at Robben Picture supply
Nonetheless, the islands potential as a convict station didn’t go unnoticed, and in about 1671 the Dutch started to position their convicted criminals upon it. It was solely a matter of time earlier than this courtesy was extended to political prisoners and different “undesirables” banished to the Cape from other Dutch colonies. The truth is the Dutch authorities sent kings, princes and religious leaders from the East Indies to Robben Island as prisoners as a result of they did not agree with the Dutch rule in their nation.
When the British annexed the Cape in 1806 they continued this practice. Throughout the first British occupation of the Cape, from 1795 to 1802, whaling activities were begun in Desk Bay, and after their return in 1806 a whaling station was located on Robben Island. Nevertheless it soon grew to become apparent that this supplied convicts a straightforward escape route, and it was closed down in 1820.
In 1812 the first attempt was made to make use of the island as an stone island overshirt grey asylum for the mentally ailing, and in 1843 the Colonial Secretary, John Montagu, put forward a plan to use it as a colony for lepers, paupers, the mentally unfit and the chronically ailing. The plan additionally offered for the elimination of the penal colony to the mainland where convict labour could be used more productively on government initiatives, equivalent to street-building. This plan was accepted and by 1845 the island had change into a house for the Colony’s unwanted and unloved, those deemed to be ‘mentally ill’ in those days may include the homeless, alcoholics, individuals who had stone island overshirt grey been to sick or outdated to work and prostitutes with sexually transmitted diseases. These unfortunates were often subjected to remedy, which was unhealthy and inhumane even by the standards of that time, and situations on the island became the subject of fixed complaint from progressive clergy and medical employees. Although some improvements have been carried out over time, the island’s lazaretto was only closed down in 1931.
The lighthouse on Robben Island was commissioned in January 1865. The circular tower, designed by the Colonial Engineer, John Scott Tucker, was inbuilt stone quarried domestically, and stood 18m excessive. The 1875 census indicated that Robben Island had a population of 552. In 1891 this number had risen to 702, and by 1904 it stood at 1,460.
Aerial view of Robben Island with Desk Mountain in the background.
After 1931 all the ‘patients’ were despatched to hospitals within the Cape and the island started for use as a army outpost before WW II. Guns were saved there and the government built roads, a power station, a brand new water provide and homes.
In 1961 it started being used as a prison again. Throughout apartheid many Black folks had been kept on Robben Island as political prisoners. Former President Nelson Mandela was kept there. The prison internationally infamous for its harsh situations and when the political prisoners of the apartheid authorities have been released Robben Island grew to become a symbol of the strength of the human spirit.