1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Amboyna

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

AMBOYNA (Dutch Ambon), the name of a residency, its chief town, and the island on which the town is situated, in the Dutch East Indies.

The residency shares with that of Ternate the administration of the Moluccas, the previous government of which was abolished in 1867. It includes mass of islands in the Banda Sea (2° 30′–8° 20' S. and 125° 45′–135° E.), including the island-belt which surrounds the sea on the north, east and south; and is divided for administrative purposes into nine districts (afdeelingen): 1) Amboyna, the island of that name; (2) Saparua, with Oma and Nusa Laut; (3) Kajeli (Eastern Buru); (4) Masareti (Western Buru); (5) Kairatu (Western Ceram); (6) Wahai (the northern part of Mid-Ceram); (7) Amahai (the southern part of Mid-Ceram); (8) the Banda Isles, with East Ceram, Ceram Laut and Gorom; (9) the islands of Aru, Kei, Timor Laut or Tenimber, and the south-western islands. The total area of the residency is about 19,861 sq. m., and its population 296,000, including 2400 Europeans.

Amboyna Island lies off the south-west of Ceram, on the north side of the Banda Sea, being one of a series of volcanic isles in the inner circle round the sea. It is 32 m. in length, with an area of about 386 sq. m., and is of very irregular figure, being almost divided into two. The south-eastern and smaller portion (called Leitimor) is united to the northern (Hitoe) by a neck of land a few yards in breadth. The highest mountains, Wawani (3609 ft.) and Salhutu (4020 ft.), have hot springs and solfataras. They are considered to be volcanoes, and the mountains of the neighbouring Uliasser islands the remains of volcanoes. Granite and serpentine rocks predominate, but the shores of Amboyna Bay are of chalk, and contain stalactite caves. The surface is fertile, the rivers are small and not navigable, and the roads are mere footpaths. Cocoa is one of the products. The climate is comparatively pleasant and healthy; the average temperature is 80° F., rarely sinking below 72°. The rainfall, however, after the eastern monsoons, is very heavy, and the island is liable to violent hurricanes. It is remarkable that the dry season (October to April) is coincident with the period of the west monsoon. Indigenous mammals are poor in species as well as few in number; birds are more abundant, but of no greater variety. The entomology of the island, however, is very rich, particularly in respect of Lepidoptera. Shells are obtained in great numbers and variety. Turtle-shell is also largely exported. The vegetation is also rich, and Amboyna produces most of the common tropical fruits and vegetables, including the sago-palm, bread fruit, cocoa-nut, sugar-cane, maize, coffee, pepper and cotton. Cloves, however, form its chief product, though the trade in them is less important than formerly, when the Dutch prohibited the rearing of the clove-tree in all the other islands subject to their rule, in order to secure the monopoly to Amboyna. Amboyna wood, of great value for ornamental work, is obtained from the hard knots which occur on certain trees in the forests of Ceram. The population (about 39,000) is divided into two classes—orang burger or citizens, and orang negri or villagers, the former being a class of native origin enjoying certain privileges conferred on their ancestors by the old Dutch East India Company. The natives are of mixed Malay-Papuan blood. They are mostly Christians or Mahommedans. There are also, besides the Dutch, some Arabs, Chinese and a few Portuguese settlers.

Amboyna, the chief town, and seat of the resident and military commander of the Moluccas, is protected by Fort Victoria, and is a clean little town with wide streets, well planted. Agriculture, fisheries and import and export trade furnish the chief means of subsistence. It lies on the north-west of the peninsula of Leitimor, and has a safe and commodious anchorage. Its population is about 8000.

The Portuguese were the first European nation to visit Amboyna (1511). They established a factory there in 1521, but did not obtain peaceable possession of it till 1580, and were dispossessed by the Dutch in 1609. About 1615 the British formed a settlement in the island, at Cambello, which they retained until 1623, when it was destroyed by the Dutch, and frightful tortures inflicted on the unfortunate persons connected with it. In 1654, after many fruitless negotiations, Cromwell compelled the United Provinces to give the sum of £300,000, together with a small island, as compensation to the descendants of those who suffered in the “Amboyna massacre.” In 1673 the poet Dryden produced his tragedy of Amboyna, or the Cruelties of the Dutch to the English Merchants. In 1796 the British, under Admiral Rainier, captured Amboyna, but restored it to the Dutch at the peace of Amiens in 1802. It was retaken by the British in 1810, but once more restored to the Dutch in 1814.