Ternate

Mar 06, 2015, 7:00AM EST
Ternate
The spiciest of the Spice Islands

 Ternate is a relatively small (43 square mile) island in the Molucca Islands of Indonesia.  For hundreds of years, it was the center of the Sultanate of Ternate, one of the wealthiest and most powerful governments in the region, exercising influence as far as Sulawesi and Papua.  Its wealth, power, and influence derived from the fact that it was a world leader in the growth and production of cloves, a vital spice in the age before refrigeration.  Unfortunately, the other major source of cloves was the neighboring island of Tidore, with which it engaged in a long-running and bitter rivalry.  As a result, much of the wealth of both islands was expended in economic and (occasionally) military warfare.  The Chinese, major purchasers of cloves, played the two islands off against each other, as did the Arabs when they landed in the Moluccas.  Portuguese traders first arrived in 1512, having spent many years searching for the fabled Spice Islands.  Relations between the Ternateans and the Portuguese were strained, in large part because the Portuguese attempted to monopolize the spice trade.  The Portuguese were expelled in 1575.  In 1580, Francis Drake in his ship Golden Hind landed briefly on Ternate while engaged in his circumnavigation voyage, but made little effort to engage in trade, other than to resupply his stores.  In the early 1600s, Dutch and Spanish forces competed for domination over the Spice Islands.  For a while, the Spanish controlled Tidore while the Dutch were on Ternate.  The Spanish abandoned their claims on Tidore in 1663 and the Dutch eventually assumed control over all of the Spice Islands and what became Indonesia.  The spice trade waned during the nineteenth century, eliminating the wealth and importance of Ternate.  The island is dominated by the volcanic Mount Gamalama, which erupts with unsettling regularity.  An 1840 eruption caused widespread devastation to the agriculture and communities on the island.  The most recent eruption, in 2011, closed the island’s airport for a short period.  

 
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