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Kishm

KISHM (also Arab. Jazirat ut-lawilah, Pers. Jazarih i dardz, i.e. Long Island), an island at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, separated from the Persian mainland by the Khor-i-Jafari, a strait which at its narrowest point is less than 2 m. broad. On British Admiralty charts it figures as " Clarence Strait," the name given to it by British surveyors in 1828 in honour of the duke of Clarence (William IV.). The island is 70 m. long, its main axis running E.N.E. by W.S.W. Its greatest breadth is 22 m. and the mean breadth about 7m. A range of hills from 300 to 600 ft. high, with strongly marked escarpments, runs nearly parallel to the southern coast; they are largely composed, like those of Hormuz and the neighbouring mainland, of rock salt, which is regularly quarried in several places, principally at Nimakdan (i.e. salt-cellar) and Salakh on the south coast, and forms one of the chief products of the island, finding its way to Muscat, India and Zanzibar. In the centre of the island some hills, consisting of sandstone and marl, rise to an elevation of 1300 ft. In its general aspect the island is parched and barren-looking, like the south of Persia, but it contains fertile portions, which produce grain, dates, grapes, melons, etc. Traces of naphtha were observed near Salakh, but extensive boring operations in 1892 did not lead to any result. The town of Kishm (pop. 5000) is on the eastern extremity of the island. The famous navigator, William Baffin, was killed here in January 1622 by a shot from the Portuguese castle close by, which a British force was then besieging. Lafit (Laft, Leit), the next place in importance (reduced by a British fleet in 1809), is situated about midway on the northern coast in the most fertile part of the island. There are also many flourishing villages. At Basidu or Bassudore (correct name Baba Sa'idu), on the western extremity of the island, the British government maintained until 1879 a sanatorium for the crews of their gunboats in the gulf, with barracks for a company of sepoys belonging to the marine battalion at Bombay, workshops, hospital, etc. The village is still British property, but its occupants are reduced to a couple of men in charge of a coal depot, a provision store and about 90 villagers. In December 1896 a terrible earthquake destroyed about four-fifths of the houses on the island and over 1000 persons lost their lives. The total population is generally estimated at about 15,000 to 20,000, but the German Admiralty's Segelhandbuch fiir den Persischen Golf for 1907 has 40,000.

Kishm is the ancient Oaracta, or Uorochta, a name said to have survived until recently in a village called Brokt, or Brokht. It was also called the island of the Beni Kavan, from an Arab tribe of that name which came from Oman. (A. H.-S.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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