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Robben Island is a tiny island measuring 574ha and located roughly 11km offshore of Cape Town in Table Bay. The island means many things to many people. Prior to 1994, it was mostly a place of suffering and last used as a maximum security prison for political prisoners.
Over the centuries, Robben Island was used as a refreshment station, as a place of banishment, a remote leper colony and lunatic asylum. Here, authorities were successfully able to remove the sick, the abandoned and the criminal from Cape Town society. During WWII, Robben Island was somewhat of a strategic defence site and several old military buildings lie in ruin across the island.
From the late 1400s, Portuguese sailors would stop at Robben Island to slaughter seals, penguins and collect eggs, but it was the Dutch who, over a century later, named the place Robben Island after the many seals resident on the island.
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