Moluc'cas (also called Spice Islands), the easternmost division of the Malay Archipelago, comprising most of the islands between Celebes and New Guinea, belonging to the Dutch. The northern group comprises Morotai (Morty) and Rau (Riao) in the north, Jilolo, Temate, Tidor, etc. in the centre, Batchian (Batjan), Tawali, Mandioli, and Great and Little Obi in the south, with a total area of nearly 10,000 sq. m. (of which Jilolo has 7000). The pop. is estimated at 60,000, nearly half in the small but politically important islands of Tidor and Ternate. The Southern Moluccas comprise the two large islands of Buru (8500 sq. m.)and Ceram (7000), the small Amboyna, Uliasser, Banda, and Ceram Laut sub-groups, the outlying Ke and Aru clusters, etc, with a collective area of 16,500 sq. m., and a pop. of 350,000, of whom 200,000 are in Ceram, 60,000 in Buru, and 30,000 in Amboyna. Thus the Moluccas have a total area of over 26,000 sq. m., and a pop. of some 400,000, chiefly civilised Malays in the Little Moluccas (the small islands west of Jilolo), Banda, and Amboyna, elsewhere 'Alfuros' (uncivilised natives), some Indonesians, Malays, and Malayo-Papuans.
The Moluccas lie partly on the line of the great volcanic fault, which sweeps round in a vast curve from Sumatra to the Philippines and Japan, and which in the Moluccas is indicated by the still active volcanoes Gunong-Api (1870 feet) in Banda, Tidor (5730), Ternate (5650), Motir (2800), three cones in Jilolo, Tolo in Morotai. Despite their tropical position, being nearly bisected by the equator, the Moluccas enjoy a relatively healthy climate, and in some places the European race (Portuguese and Dutch) has even been acclimatised. The excessive heats are everywhere tempered by sea-breezes and by the mountainous character of the islands, which in Buru and Ceram rise to heights of 8000 and even 10,000 feet. Indigenous to most parts of this region are the clove, nutmeg, and other spices, allowed by the Dutch to be cultivated only in Amboyna and the Banda group; also the sago-palm, pan-danus, dammar pine, and cajeput. Amongst animals are the babiroussa, the bird of paradise, the marsupial cuscus and flying opossum, the cassowary, the mound-building bird, the crimson lory, and many gorgeous parrots and pigeons.
Notwithstanding their small size, Ternate and Tidor have always been the chief centres of political power in the northern, and Amboyna in the southern Moluccas, as having long been occupied by civilised Malays. In Ternate is still centred most of the trade of the northern Moluccas, which export spices, tortoise-shell, trepang, beeswax, bark, and birds of paradise. Amboyna, capital of all the Dutch Moluccas, exports cloves. Banda is the home of the nutmeg, and yields sago and cocoa-nuts.
See A. R. Wallace, The Malay Archipelago (new ed. 1894); Reclus, Universal Geography; Muller's Reizen; and German works by Bastian, Von Rosenberg, and Bernstein.