1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Billiton

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BILLITON (Dutch Blitoeng), an island of the Dutch East Indies, between Banka and Borneo, from which it is separated respectively by Caspar and Karimata straits. Politically it is under an assistant resident. It is roughly circular in form, its extreme measurements being 55 m. by 43, and its area 1773 sq. m. In physical structure and in products it resembles Banka; its coasts are sandy or marshy; in the interior an extreme elevation of 1670 ft. is found. The geological formation is Devonian and granitic, with laterites. The mean annual rainfall is heavy, 102 to 126 in. The day temperature varies from 80° to 87° Fahr. The nights are very cool. Like Banka, Billiton is chiefly noted for its production of tin, the island forming the southern limit of the occurrence of this metal in this locality. There are upwards of 80 mines, which employ some 7500 workmen, and have produced more than 6500 tons of tin in a year. Iron is also worked. On the rocks along the coast are found tortoises, trepang and edible birds’ nests, which are articles of export. The forests supply wood of different kinds for boat-building, in which the inhabitants are expert; and also provide trade in cocoa-nuts, sago, gum and other produce. The population is about 42,000, of whom some 12,000 are Chinese. The natives belong to two classes, the Orang Darat, the aborigines, thought to be akin to the Battas and other branches of the pre-Malayan or Indonesian race; and the Orang Sekah, people of Malayan stock who live in boats. The coast is as a rule difficult of access, being beset with rocks and coral banks, and the best harbour is that at the chief town of Tanjong Pandan on the west coast. The island was formerly under the sultan of Palembang, by whom it was ceded to the British in 1812. As no mention was made of it in the treaty between the British and Dutch in 1814, the former at first refused to renounce their possession, and only recognized the Dutch claim in 1824. Till 1852 Billiton was dependent on Banka.