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Bacan (formerly Bachan, Bachian or Batchian, Dutch: Batjan) refers to a group of islands in the Maluku Islands of Indonesia and to that group's largest island. The islands are mountainous and forested. The islands lie south of Ternate and west of Halmahera's southernmost arm. The second and third largest islands are Kasiruta and Mandioli. There are dozens of smaller islands in the group.

Part of North Maluku province, the Bacan kecamatan (sub-district) includes abut 56,000 people of which about 8,000 live in the capital Labuha.



In 1513, the first Portuguese trading fleet to reach Maluku set up a trading post on Bacan which at the time was subservient to the Sultan of Ternate. The fleet's commander, Captain Antonio de Miranda Azevedo, left seven men on Bacan to buy cloves for the following year's expedition. Their arrogant behaviour and reported bad treatment of Bacan women led to their murder. As Ternate did not have enough stock, the ship for which the men had stayed to prepare was used by the Sultan of Ternate to fill Ferdinand Magellan's last ship, which was the first ship to circumnavigate the world. A slave and two birds of paradise were given to the ship by Bacan. Bacan became a place of refuge for rebellious Ternateans. The Portuguese sent a punitive expedition against Bacan but it failed, and instead the Portuguese Governor Galvão challenged Bacan's sultan to a duel to determine who was to be subservient to whom. The challenge was accepted but the duel never took place.[1]

In 1557, Father Antonio Vaz converted Bacan's sultan and court members to Catholicism. The king subsequently married Sultan Hairun of Ternate who had also become a Catholic. Ternate invaded in 1578 and the king apostatized. A community of Christians remained and were later joined by correligionists from Tobelo and Ambon. A small Roman Catholic hospital was built by an elderly Dutch nun. Today, Protestants significantly outnumber Catholics. During the mid-19th century Maluku travels of British naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace, Christians in Maluku were called "Orang Sirani" and were thought to have been descended from the Portuguese. They had dressed in white and black and Wallace reports they dance "quadrilles, waltzes, polkas, and mazurkas with great vigour and much skill".[1]

Following the 1578 Ternatean invasion, Bacan appears to have become subservient to Ternate. The wife of Sultan Said of Ternate was provided by Bacan. A Spanish fort was built in 1606. Once the Dutch established hegemony in the 17th century, the Netherlands' power on Bacan was based in Fort Barnaveld.[1]

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