Longue Island | So Seychelles

Longue Island

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Longue Island was named for its long shape by Captain Nicholas Morphey in 1756. It is 800 metres long and 300 metres wide. It is situated 5.6 kilometres east of Mahe Island. Sainte-Anne Marine Park surrounds the islands near Longue including Moyenne, Cerf, Round, Cachee and St. Anne Islands.

Longue Island does not have the extraordinary flora and fauna that the other islands have, but it has an interesting history.

The History

Captain Morphey was French/Irish from Brittany. He arrived at what is today Seychelles, on the Cerf accompanied by Captain Prejean on the Saint Benoit. They celebrated the feast of Sainte Anne, who is the patron saint of Breton corsairs and other seamen, on September 9th, 1756. At that time, Morphey named Cerf Island after his ship and Sainte Anne Island in homage of his patron saint.

Longue Island was used by the early French and Portuguese slavers as a quarantine station for the slaves being transported from Africa. They were to recuperate on the island. The United States slavers used La Digue Island as a station for their slaves. While the slaves were supposedly recuperating, many became weak and died, and they were buried on the island. The slaves who survived were disinfected with vinegar in the early days and later with coconut oil.

In 1786, Antoine Nicolas Benoit Gillot was in command of the island and the slaves were ill-treated. The slaves had no weapons or way to disarm their masters, so, as a revolt, they burned Longue Island to the ground. The same thing happened on Cerf Island in 1832. Visitors to both islands can still see the effects of the fires on the hilly parts of the islands.

At that time, the Code Noir or Black Code that ruled the slave trade for France did not require the slavers to feed the slaves properly. It instructed that the slaves be baptised in the Roman Catholic Church. The origin of the Code Noir was to secure economic supremacy in the French colonies, but thousands of slaves suffered and died because of it.

While Gillot was in command, many slave ships stopped at Mahe. Everyone on board these ships, slaves and crew, were affected by scurvy and ill health, and many died there. Most of the slaves were taken to Longue Island and the crew and captains were taken to Cerf Island.

Plate Island was used as a quarantine station in 1834, but it was too far away from Mahe, so they moved the slaves from HMS Daphne, where there was an outbreak of smallpox, to Longue Island. These slaves stayed on the island for 81 days. Some of the slaves were the Gallas from Ethiopia. The women were considered beautiful and were given special treatment from some of the sailors. It is thought that they may be the ancestors of many of the people of Seychelles.

At this time there were 400 people on the island in two stations. The main station faced Port Victoria on Mahe and the other was on the other side of the island where the sick people stayed.

Nothing is known about the brave slaves who revolted and burned the island. Maybe they are all buried there.

The Prison

Longue Island was used as a prison facility when the Seychelles International Airport opened in 1971. At first it was a prison for juveniles and first offenders. From a distance, the prison looked like a holiday resort. The prisoners would regularly break out and attend parties on Mahe Island. When the escaped prisoners started attacking tourists, the government put a quick stop to it and moved the worst offenders to a high security prison in the south of Mahe Island. Visitors have not gone to Longue Island for years because of the prison. Now that the prisoners are moved, Long Island will become a private tourist resort where people can enjoy the snorkelling and scuba diving among the beautiful granite boulders and reefs for which Seychelles in famous.