Island Details: Ternate

Number of Islands (approx.)
Island Details
belongs to the Malaku Islands in eastern Indonesia*
Type of Islands
oceanic, volcanic
Surface Area (km²)
The topography of the island is dominated by a central stratovolcano surrounded by manly flat and fertile coastal areas which are protected by an almost closed belt of coral reefs.*
Highest Elevation (m)
Highest Elevation (name)
Isolation Index
Climate Risk Index Rank (1993-2012)
Mean Sea Level Trends (mm/year)
Mean Sea Level (meta)
Population (total)
Census Year [Population (total)]
Population Density (p/km²)
Census Year [Population Density (p/km²)]
Population Growth (annual %)
Census Year [Population Growth (annual %)]
GDP (per capita in current US$)
Census Year (GDP)
Dominant Economic Sector
agriculture, fishing, tourism*
Census Year (HDI)
dependent (territory of Indonesia)*
Numerous islands could be chosen to exemplify the topic of islands as outposts of globalisation. Ternate impressively demonstrates how the interaction of historical, political and geographical forces can turn islands into central nodes of power, pawns in the game or else peripheries of global events. Centuries before the term ‘globalisation’ first found mention in scientific publications, international connections developed within various realms of human existence. The so-called transatlantic trade triangle not only enabled the exchange of resources between three global regions (mostly precious metals, sugar, arms and slaves), but also led to fundamental shifts within societies, political power structures and ecologies. In the Caribbean, multi-cultural population structures developed as a result of indigenous, European and African influence; in Europe, new crops began to arrive that nobody had ever heard of before. In a nutshell, globalisation began long before it became known as such. Islands have always played an important role in this global exchange as “outposts of globalisation”. Ternate can confidently be termed a hub of the early global economy. For a long time it even held a worldwide monopoly on certain agricultural products. European and Chinese economic interests met here, and the island also witnessed a form of cultural expansion when a Muslim Sultanate became established as early as the 13th century, about 10,000 km away from Mecca. Although the volcanic island steeply rises from the sea, its area of merely 112 km² makes it tiny compared to its neighbours. It takes a leisurely 45 minutes to do a full circle on the coastal ring road. Nevertheless, for a long period the island was a centre of economic, political and cultural power. It played a central part in establishing the Muslim faith in the eastern part of what is now the world’s largest Muslim country. Clever diplomacy also enabled the island to stand up to foreign political interests whilst benefitting from a considerable share in the global spice trade. For nearby China, Ternate was an outpost of the world of spices and of the Chinese trading empire. The Portuguese Francisco Serrão was the first European to arrive here in 1513. Eight years later the legendary explorer Ferdinand Magellan briefly stopped over on the island during his circumnavigation. Although the ruling Sultan allowed the construction of a Portuguese fort as a regional trading base and military stronghold, he did not cede any territorial authority to the Europeans. The two leading maritime powers of the time, Spain and Portugal, competed for the trading monopoly with the countries just discovered far from home. Local power elites made clever use of this conflict of interest. From 1529 onwards neither party was tolerated any longer by the Sultanates, giving room to the rise of another significant actor in the early global economy: The Dutch East India Company. The Dutch, however, went home every year, returning with fresh troops only the following year. The Spanish made use of their absence by repeatedly spreading out on the island. According to legend, a local Chinese merchant defused tensions between the European powers by cleverly dividing the island, giving the North to the red-heads and the South to the white-necks. In the early 17th century the Dutch ousted the Sultan’s family from power and began the large-scale cultivation of cloves with the intention of creating a monopoly. At that time, the islands had already become known in Europe as the “Spice Islands”. The name of Ternate would have been known to overseas traders around the world. Today only few people have even heard of the archipelago. With its economic decline in the 19th century the island too lost its significance. During the Second World War it was occupied by Japan; after decolonisation it became part of the largest island state of the world, sealing its fate as a peripheral outpost of the world. Volcanologists still appreciate the island as its central volcano, rising a proud 1,715 metres above sea level, is one of the most active in the region. With a total of 176,000 inhabitants (2010) the island is also relatively densely populated.*