1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aru Islands

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

ARU ISLANDS (Dutch Aroe), a group in the residency of Amboyna, Dutch East Indies; between 5° 18′ and 7° 5′ S., and 134° and 135° E.; the member nearest to the south-west coast of New Guinea lying about 70 m. from it. The larger islands (Wokan, Kobrur, Maikor and Trangan), and certain of the lesser ones, are regarded by the Malays as one land mass which they call tana besar (“great land”). This is justified inasmuch as its parts are only isolated by narrow creeks of curious form, having the character of rivers. The smaller islands number some eighty; the total land area is 3244 sq. m.; and the population about 22,000. The islands are low, but it is only on the coast that the ground is swampy. The principal formation is coralline limestone; the eastern coast is defended by coral reefs, and the neighbouring sea (extending as far as New Guinea, and thus demonstrating a physical connexion with that land) is shallow, and abounds in coral in full growth. A large part of the surface is covered with virgin forest, consisting of screw-pines, palm trees, tree ferns, canariums, &c. The fauna is altogether Papuan. The natives are also Papuans, but of mixed blood. They are divided into two confederations, the Uli-luna and the Uli-sawa, which are hostile to each other. The houses are remarkable as being built on piles sunk in the solid rock and having two rooms, the one surrounding the other. The people are in manners complete savages. The natives are governed by rajas (orang kajas), the Dutch government being represented by a posthouder. In the interior is said to exist a tribe—the Korongoeis—with white skins and fair hair, but it has never been seen by travellers. A few villages are nominally Christian, and the Malays have introduced Mahommedanism, but most of the natives have no religion. Dobbo, on a small western island, is the chief place; its resident population is reinforced annually, at the time of the west monsoon, by traders from that quarter, who deal in the tripang, pearl shell, tortoise-shell, and other produce of the islands.