1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ceram

CERAM (Sirang), an island of the Dutch East Indies, in the Molucca group, lying about 3° S., and between 127° 45′ and 151° E. Its length is a little over 200 m., its greatest breadth about 50 m., and its area, including neighbouring islets, 6621 sq. m. It consists of two parts, Great Ceram and Little Ceram or Huvamohel, united by the isthmus of Taruno; and, for administrative purposes, is assigned to the residency of Arnboyna, being divided into Kairatu or West Ceram, Wahai and Amahai, the northern and the southern parts of Middle Ceram, and Waru or Eastern Ceram. No central chain of mountains stretches west and east through the island, but near the north coast hills, rising 2300 to 2600 ft., slope steeply to the shore. Near the south coast, west of the Bay of Elpaputeh, a complex mass of mountains forms, a colossal pyramid, with peaks rising to nearly 5000 ft. The isthmus connecting the two parts of the island is very narrow, and has a height of only 460 to 490 ft. The chief rivers flow north and south into bays, but are navigable only for a few miles during the rainy season. The rainfall is very heavy, amounting to 121 in. (mean annual) on the south coast. On the north coast the bays of Savai and Waru are accessible for small vessels. The geological structure, consisting chiefly of eruptive rocks and crystalline limestone, is similar to that of northern Amboyna. In the eastern section the prevailing rock is crystalline chalk, similar to that of Buru. Several hot springs occur, and earthquakes are not infrequent. About 4000 persons perished in the earthquake of 1899. A large part of the interior is covered with dense forests, and except along the coast the population is scanty. For the naturalist Ceram is without much interest, lacking characteristic species or abundance of specimens. The Bandanese pay occasional visits to shoot bears and deer; there are numbers of wild goats and cattle; and among birds are mentioned cassowaries, cockatoos, birds of paradise, and the swallows that furnish edible nests. A large number of fish are to be found in the various rivers; and as early as 1860 no fewer than 213 species were described. The most valuable timber tree is the iron-wood. Rice, maize, cocoa-nuts, sugar-cane and a variety of fruits are grown; and some tobacco is exported to Europe; but by far the most important production is the sago palm, which grows abundantly in the swampy districts, especially of Eastern Ceram, and furnishes a vast supply of food, not only to Ceram itself, but to other islands to the east. The Dutch have established cocoa and coffee plantations at various points. The coast-villages are inhabited by a mixed Malay population, Buginese, Macassars, Balinese and other races of the archipelago. The interior is occupied by the aborigines, a people of Papuan stock. They are savages and head-hunters. The introduction of Christianity was hampered by the baneful influence of a secret society called the Kakian Union, to which pagans, Mahommedans and Christians indiscriminately attached themselves; and it has several times cost the Dutch authorities considerable efforts to frustrate their machinations (see Tijdschrift van Ned. Ind., fifth year). The total population is estimated at 100,000, including 12,000 Christians and 16,000 Mahommedans. The chief settlements are Savai at the north and Elpaputeh at the south end of the isthmus of Taruno. There was a Dutch fort at Kambello, on the west side of Little Ceram, as early as 1646.