HALMAHERA [“great land”; also Jilolo or Gilolo], an island of the Dutch East Indies, belonging to the residency of Ternate, lying under the equator and about 128° E. Its shape is extremely irregular, resembling that of the island of Celebes. It consists of four peninsulas so arranged as to enclose three great bays (Kayu, Bicholi, Weda), all opening towards the east, the northern peninsula being connected with the others by an isthmus only 5 m. wide. On the western side of the isthmus lies another bay, that of Dodinga, in the mouth of which are situated the two islands Ternate and Tidore, whose political importance exceeds that of the larger island (see these articles). Of the four peninsulas of Halmahera the northern and the southern are reckoned to the sultanate of Ternate, the north-eastern and south-eastern to that of Tidore; the former having eleven, the latter three districts. The distance between the extremities of the northern and southern peninsulas, measured along the curve of the west coast, is about 240 m.; and the total area of the island is 6700 sq. m. Knowledge of the island is very incomplete. It appears that the four peninsulas are traversed in the direction of their longitudinal axis by mountain chains 3000 to 4000 ft. high, covered with forest, without a central chain at the nucleus of the island whence the peninsulas diverge. The mountain chains are frequently interrupted by plains, such as those of Weda and Kobi. The northern part of the mountain chain of the northern peninsula is volcanic, its volcanoes continuing the line of those of Makian, Ternate and Tidore. Coral formations on heights in the interior would indicate oscillations of the land in several periods, but a detailed geology of the island is wanting. To the north-east of the northern peninsula is the considerable island of Morotai (635 sq. m.), and to the west of the southern peninsula the more important island of Bachian (q.v.) among others. Galela is a considerable settlement, situated on a bay of the same name on the north-east coast, in a well cultivated plain which extends southward and inland. Vegetation is prolific. Rice is grown by the natives, but the sago tree is of far greater importance to them. Dammar and coco-nuts are also grown. The sea yields trepang and pearl shells. A little trade is carried on by the Chinese and Macassars of Ternate, who, crossing the narrow isthmus of Dodinga, enter the bay of Kayu on the east coast. The total population is estimated at 100,000.
The inhabitants are mostly of immigrant Malayan stock. In the northern peninsula are found people of Papuan type, probably representing the aborigines, and a tribe around Galela, who are Polynesian in physique, possibly remnants, much mixed by subsequent crossings with the Papuan indigenes, of the Caucasian hordes emigrating in prehistoric times across the Pacific. M. Achille Raffray gives a description of them in Tour du monde (1879) where photographs will be found. “They are as unlike the Malays as we are, excelling them in tallness of stature and elegance of shape, and being perfectly distinguished by their oval face, with a fairly high and open brow, their aquiline nose and their horizontally placed eyes. Their beards are sometimes thick; their limbs are muscular; the colour of their skins is cinnamon brown. Spears of iron-wood, abundantly barbed, and small bows and bamboo arrows free from poison are their principal weapons.” They are further described as having temples (sabuas) in which they suspend images of serpents and other monsters as well as the trophies procured by war. They believe in a better life hereafter, but have no idea of a hell or a devil, their evil spirits only tormenting them in the present state.
The Portuguese and Spaniards were better acquainted with Halmahera than with many other parts of the archipelago; they called it sometimes Batu China and sometimes Moro. It was circumnavigated by one of their vessels in 1525, and the general outline of the coasts is correctly given in their maps at a time when separate portions of Celebes, such as Macassar and Menado, are represented as distinct islands. The name (Jilolo) was really that of a native state, the sultan of which had the chief rank among the princes of the Moluccas before he was supplanted by the sultan of Ternate about 1380. His capital, Jilolo, lay on the west coast on the first bay to the north of that of Dodinga. In 1876 Danu Hassan, a descendant of the sultans of Jilolo, raised an insurrection in the island for the purpose of throwing off the authority of the sultans of Tidore and Ternate; and his efforts would probably have been successful but for the intervention of the Dutch. In 1878 a Dutch expedition was directed against the pirates of Tobalai, and they were virtually extirpated. Slavery remains in the interior. Missionary work, carried on in the northern peninsula of Halmahera since 1866, has been fairly successful among the heathen natives, but less so among the Mahommedans, who have often incited the others against the missionaries and their converts.