- A cluster of more than 500 islands off the coast of India has a lot of history.
- During the Indian Rebellion, the islands were the site of jails run by the British – who also built themselves fancy bungalows, churches, and even tennis courts.
- In 1941, a large earthquake struck the islands, killing thousands. The Japanese took ownership of the islands in World War II, using them for bunkers.
- Today they are owned by the Indian Navy, and members of the public can stroll through the old architecture, which is entirely covered in roots and vines.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Hundreds of miles from the coast of India is a tiny speck of an island, measuring only one-third of a square mile.
Ross Island is one of the 572 islands that make up the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, once owned by the British and home to thousands of convicts and political prisoners. But after a large earthquake struck the area in 1941, thousands of residents were killed.
Control was eventually taken over by the Japanese, who used the strategically located islands as a safe zone during World War II. Bunkers were built to protect the soldiers, but once the war ended, ownership was given to the Indians.
Now in the hands of the Indian Navy, the islands once bustling with people are abandoned and completely overgrown with jungle vines. Keep scrolling to see the eerie beauty.
Ross Island was named after Sir Daniel Ross, the first man to inhabit the island for a year from 1788.
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Sir Daniel Ross landed on the small island in 1788 and surveyed the land for a year. He eventually departed Ross Island due to the unpredictable weather, leaving it abandoned for the first time, but definitely not the last.
The small island is about 800 miles off the coast of India.
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Ross Island is part of the Andaman and Nicobar islands, which are all small in size. Ross Island is just east of South Andaman Island, where the majority of the population lives and works.
Ross Island is reached by taking a short ferry from Port Blair.
- Google Maps
Compared to other Andaman and Nicobar islands, Ross Island is just a small speck of land – but it has a big history.
It wasn’t until almost 70 years after Sir Ross’ visit, amid the Indian Rebellion, that the island and other islands became repopulated.
In 1857, the Indian Mutiny (also known as the Indian Rebellion) broke out, with the Indians battling for independence from the British. The British decided they needed a place to punish the Indian fighters, and the jails on the mainland were quickly filling up.
An illustration from 1872 shows the old jails on Ross Island.
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The Andaman and Nicobar Islands became the holding site for hundreds of rebels and convicts because of its extreme distance from the mainland.
Around the jails, the British started to build communities. On Ross Island, they built the Chief Commissioner’s house, a cathedral, and even a graveyard for fallen British soldiers.
The British built settlements by ordering prisoners to clear the land and build structures for them.
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The islands were covered in forests and the weather was humid, but still prisoners were forced to clear the islands to make way for Presbyterian churches, tennis courts, bungalows, and even swimming pools.
But life on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands felt isolated, and an appointment to work there wasn’t considered prestigious.
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Although the islands eventually had anything one would want, including manicured gardens, pools, and tennis courts, they were still not considered a luxury getaway. The isolation from the mainland left the British feeling bored and useless, and being appointed there was usually regarded as a punishment, not a tropical island escape.
For decades, the islands were home to a notoriously brutal prison system for Indian revolutionaries. Today, the buildings are completely empty and covered in vines.
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While housing prisoners, the jails were known to be ridden with disease, and prisoners were over-worked, over-crowded, and starving.
The jails eventually closed in 1937, but the British continued to live there until disaster struck.
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After the earthquake, Japanese troops took control of the islands and built bunkers there. Those structures are now overrun by roots and vines.
The British were unable to fight off the Japanese troops, who took over the islands and built bunkers. Remains of the bunkers can still be found to this day.
A few years after World War II ended, India gained independence and the islands were passed over to the Indian government in 1947.
Although there was a change in ownership, Japanese and British troops continued to live on the island until the late 1970s.
In 1979, Ross Island was officially handed over to the Indian Navy.
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A small base was set up and eventually, a museum was built on the island so tourists could learn about the history of Ross Island and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
There is a guest house on one of the islands for visiting Navy officials — but staying there seems a spooky proposition.
While the guest house is an option, considering the eerie, overgrown state of the land, spending the night must be intimidating.
An abandoned church is still flooded with natural sunlight almost daily.
A church once full of people still stands tall, but is now completely overtaken by vines and roots.
Today, Ross Island is open to tourists, and even features a few shops and vendors selling food.
Time will tell if these new buildings go the same way as the others.
- Read more:
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