This island group in eastern Indonesia is part of the Moluccas, or Spice Islands, in the Banda Sea, near Seram. The group consists of ten small islands, the most important being Great Banda, Bandanaira, and Gunung Api. Great Banda, the largest of the group, is about 12 km (7.5 miles) long and 3.2 km (2 miles) wide. All the islands are volcanic in origin, and Gunung Api has an active volcano 658 m (2,159 ft) high. Bandanaira, economically the most important of the group, Great Banda, and Gunung Api partly form the sides of an excellent harbour. The volcanic soil of the islands is extremely fertile and well suited to the cultivation of nutmeg, the principal crop.
The Banda Islands were occupied by the Portuguese in 1512 and remained under their control until the early part of the 17th century, when the Dutch expelled them. Dutch rule of the group terminated in 1949 with the formation of the independent state of Indonesia.
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