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Maluku

The Maluku Islands are an archipelago in Indonesia, and part of the larger Maritime Southeast Asia region. Tectonically they are located on the Halmahera Plate within the Molucca Sea Collision Zone. Geographically they are located east of Sulawesi, west of New Guinea, and north of Timor. The islands were also historically known as the Spice Islands by the Chinese and Europeans, but this term has also been applied to other islands.


Bacan Island
Pulau Bacan

Bacan (formerly Bachan orBatjan) refers to a group of islands in the Maluku Islands of Indonesia and to that group's largest island. The islands are mountainous and forested. The islands lie south of Ternate and west of Halmahera's southernmost arm. The second and third largest islands are Kasiruta and Mandioli. There are dozens of smaller islands in the group.

The interior of the island is relatively uninhabited and none of the dwellers on the coast are indigenous. They consist of the Sirani (Christian descendants of the Portuguese), of Malays, Papuans, and immigrants from other islands. The total number of inhabitants is about 13,000. The most significant town on the island is the Bacan sub-district capital Labuha, situated on the west side of the island. Nearby is the town of Amasing (or Amasingkota), once a significant settlement on the island.

Several Austronesian and non-Austronesian languages are spoken on Bacan, including Tobelo, Galela, Ternate, Bajau, and Tukang Besi. However, the indigenous language of Bacan is Bacanese, also known as Bacan Malay. There is some debate as to whether Bacanese is a Malay variety or a Malay-based creole.

Some Bacan words occurs in Wiltens & Danckaerts' 1623 vocabulary. Bacan is also reviewed in Adriani & Kruijt's 1914 monograph. The most detailed studies are by James T. Collins, who concludes that Bacan is indeed a Malay variety, descended from the Malay used in the Bacan Sultanate.

The island is of irregular form, consisting of two distinct mountainous parts, united by a low isthmus, which a slight subsidence would submerge. The total land area is around 1,900 km˛. The island is in part of volcanic formation, and the existence of hot springs points to volcanic activity.

There are, however, especially in the southern portion, ancient and non-volcanic rocks. The highest elevation occurs at the south of the island, the mountain of Labua reaching 6,950 ft. Coal and other minerals have been discovered. A large portion of the island is richly wooded, and sago, coconuts and cloves (which are indigenous) are abundantly produced.

Bacan is of interest to zoologists as the most eastern point on the globe inhabited by any of the Quadrumana, a black ape occurring here as in the Moluccas. The island is very rich in birds and insects. Bacan (along with Halmahera) is home for the world's largest bee, the giant mason bee, Chalicodoma pluto.


Location map of Bacan Island

Last revised on May 20, 2011
    
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