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Port Blair ( ) is the largest town and a municipal council in Andaman district in the Andaman Islandsmarker and the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islandsmarker, a union territory of Indiamarker. It lies on the east coast of South Andaman Islandmarker and is the main entry point to the islands.

It is also the headquarters for the Indian district of South Andaman, and the local administrative sub-division (tehsil), which is also called Port Blair.

It is home to several museums and a major base for the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard. It is also the headquarters of the Tri Services Command.


The Ross Island Prison Headquarters, 1872
Map of Andaman and Nicobar Islands with an extra detailed area around Port Blair

In 1789 the government of Bengal established a penal colony on Chatham Island in the southeast bay of Great Andaman, now known as Port Blair (after the officer who founded it). After two years, the colony moved to the northeast part of Great Andaman and was named Port Cornwallis after Admiral William Cornwallis. However, there was much disease and death in the penal colony, and the government ceased operating it in May 1796.

In 1824 Port Cornwallis was the rendezvous of the fleet carrying the army to the First Anglo-Burmese War. In the 1830s and 1840s, shipwrecked crews who landed on the Andamans were often attacked and killed by the natives, alarming the British government. In 1855, the government proposed another settlement on the islands, including a convict establishment, but the Indian Rebellion of 1857 forced a delay in its construction. However, since the rebellion gave the British so many prisoners, it made the new Andaman settlement and prison an urgent necessity. Construction began in November 1857 at Port Blair (named for Lieutenant Archibald Blair of the British East India Company), avoiding the vicinity of a salt swamp which seemed to have been the source of many of the old colony's problems. The penal colony was originally on Viper Island, named after Lieutenant Blair's vessel, The Viper. The convicts, mostly political prisoners, suffered life imprisonment at hard labor under degrading, even cruel conditions. Many were hanged, while others died of disease and starvation.

Between 1864 and 1867 a penal establishment was built with convict labor on the northern side of Ross Island. These structures are now in ruins.

As the Indian freedom movement continued to grow in the late Nineteenth Century an enormous Cellular Jailmarker was constructed between 1896 and 1906 to house even more Indian convicts, mostly political prisoners, in solitary confinement. It is also known as "Kala Pani" (translated as "Black Waters"), the name was given to it for the torture and ill-treatment towards the Indian Freedom Fighters.

For a time during 1943 and 1944, Port Blair was the headquarters of the Azad Hind government under Subhash Chandra Bose.

In 1984, the city was made the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Port Blair.

Although damaged by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquakemarker, Port Blair survived sufficiently to act as a base for relief efforts in the islands.

Known as the Emerald Islands, today this is a recommended site for tourists, with its lush green forest and the blue of the sea.

Geography and Climate

Port Blair has an equatorial climate with little variation in average temperature and large amounts of precipitation throughout the year. All months except January, February and March receive substantial rainfall.


 India census, Port Blair had a population of 100,186. Males constitute 52% of the population and females 48%. Port Blair has an average literacy rate of 81%, higher than the national average of 79.9%: male literacy is 81%, and female literacy is 72%. In Port Blair, 11% of the population is under 6 years of age.


Travel to Port Blair

Ships transport passengers and cargo between Port Blair and the mainland cities of Kolkatamarker, Chennaimarker and Vishakhapatnammarker. Domestic Indian air carriers serve Veer Savarkar International Airportmarker, as do international flights coming in from Bangkok.

Travel within the Andaman Islands and Port Blair

Ferry Boats link Port Blair to outlying islands. Private and State-owned "State transport service" buses are available for intra and inter Island travel. Inter Island Buses are available for Baratang, Rangatmarker, Mayabunder and Diglipur.

Taxi service

Taxis cost Rs. 20-40 only for 2 to 4 kilometres.


Popular culture references

  • Singer Jack Johnson's song "Holes to Heaven" is about a surf trip to Port Blair.
  • A crucial part of the Sherlock Holmes novel "The Sign of Four" takes place in this penal colony, depicted from the point of view of a convict.


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