Banka - Encyclopedia

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Banka (Banca, Bangka), an island of the Dutch East Indies, off the east coast of Sumatra, from which it is separated by Banka Strait, which is about 9 m. wide at its narrowest point. On the east, the broader, island-studded Gaspar Strait separates Banka from Billiton. Banka is 138 m. in length; its extreme breadthis 62 m., and its area, including a few small adjacent islands, 4460 sq. m. The soil is generally dry and stony, and the greater partof the surface is covered with forests, in which the logwood tree especially abounds. The hills, of which Maras in the north is the highest (2760 ft.), are covered with vegetation to their summits. Geologically, Banka resembles the Malay Peninsula, its formations being mainly granite, Silurian and Devonian slate, frequently covered with sandstone, laterite (red ironstone clay) of small fertility, and alluvium. The granite extends from W.N.W. to S.S.E., forming the short, irregular hill-chains. As these lie generally near the east coast, it follows that the rivers of the west coast are the longer. There are no volcanoes. The chief rivers (Jering, Kotta and Waringin) are navigable for some 19 m. from their mouths and are used for the transport of tin. Banka is principally noted for the production of this mineral, which was discovered here in 1710 and is a government monopoly. It occurs in lodes and as stream-tin, and is worked by Chinese in large numbers who inhabit villages of their own. The island is divided into nine mining districts, including about 120 mines, under government control, with 12,000 workmen, which have produced as much as 12,000 tons of tin in a year. From May to August, the period of the south-east monsoon, the climate of Banka is dry and hot; but the mean annual rainfall reaches 120 in. annually, rain occurring on an average on 168 days each year. The wet, cool season proper is from November to February, accompanying the north-west monsoon. The heavy rainfall is of great importance to the tin-streaming industry. The total population of the island (1905) is 115,189, including40,000 Chinese and 70,000 natives. These last are mainly composed of immigrant Malayan peoples. The aborigines are represented by a few rude hill-tribes, who resemble in physique the Battas of Sumatra. Rice, pepper, gambier, coffee and palms are cultivated, and fishing and the collection of forest produce are further industries, but none of these is of importance. The chief town is Muntok at the north end of Banka Strait.

See H. Zondervan, Banka en Zijne bewoners (Amsterdam, 1895), with bibliography; T. Posewitz, Die Zinn-inseln im Indischen Ocean. For geology and the tin-mines, Jaarboek vor het Mijnwezen in Ned. Ind. (Amsterdam, 1877-1884).

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