My England

Viper Island: the first jail of the British penal settlement

Viper Island is a small island not too far from Port Blair. It is said that the island got it’s name from the vessel ‘Viper’ in which Lt. Archibald Blair came to Andaman. Others maintain that this island was home to snakes like vipers and cobras and thus, got its name from them.

If Ross Island served as the HQ of the penal settlement, Viper Island served as the isolated jail for the freedom fighters and political prisoners from mainland India, before Cellular Jail was constructed in Port Blair. Today, although it is a picture of serene and breathtaking beauty, Viper Island was once infamous for its solitary cells, lockups and whipping stands.

It has been a part of our great Indian freedom struggle. The remnants of the structure that once was a jail stand as the lone witness to the enormous suffering and endurance of the prisoners here. It had earned a name for itself as ‘Viper chain gang jail’ because men were put in fetters and made to work as a punishment for breaking the prison rules.

Viper Island has some beautiful picnic spots. A 10 minute walk uphill from the jetty at Viper Island will take you to the remains of what once was the Women’s jail. Here too, the structure seems to call out to the people in a bid to reveal the history it has witnessed. However, Viper Island isn’t visited as much as Ross Island.

Viper Island is just a 20 minute ride from Phoenix Bay Jetty, Port Blair. During the boat ride one can see the Naval Ships and the main port of Port Blair, Cellular Jail and it’s main tower. Boats are not allowed after 3PM. As this island is not frequented by many, the boat trips to the island are operated on demand depending upon the number of people.

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