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stepping stones of maritime history

History

The maiden voyage of Batavia ended in disaster after she left for Batavia in the Dutch East Indies on 29th October 1628. The skipper was Adriaen Jacobsz, but the overall commandeur, a title which designates the senior VOC officer onboard, was the senior merchant Frans Pelsaert. During the voyage, a section of the crew sought to mutiny and take over the ship, and it seems that the skipper may also have been involved. The mutiny failed, and Batavia struck a reef on 4 June, 1628, 60 km off the coast of West Australia (Beacon Island).

Mutiny

Most of the crew and passengers, 322, got off the ship and made camp on some small islands. Skipper Jacobsz, Pelsaert, with 40 officers, some crew members, and passengers, left the wreck site in a longboat heading north in search for Batavia (Djakarta) and help. They took 33 days to reach Batavia. Pelsaert got a ship, De Zaandam (Saerdam), to rescue the other survivors. He arrived at the islands two months after leaving Batavia, only to discover that a bloody mutiny had taken place amongst those left behind, reducing their numbers by at least a hundred.

Illustration in Ongeluckige voyage.

 

Reign of terror

Jeronimus Cornelisz, the second merchant, who had been left in charge of the survivors, was well aware that if the rescue party ever reached Batavia he would be accusednof mutiny and sentenced to hang. He therefore made plans to hijack any rescue ship that might return and use the vessel to escape. Cornelisz even made plans to start a new kingdom, using the gold and silver from the wrecked Batavia. However, to carry out this plan, he first needed to eliminate possible opponents. He sent soldiers led by Wiebe Hayes to another island to search for water and left them there to die. A reign of terror among the survivors began. Cornelisz and a gang of murderers were very apt in killing everyone who opposed them, men, women and children alike. Cornelisz never committed any of the murders himself; instead, he used others to kill for him, first under pretext that the victim had committed a crime such as theft, but eventually, the mutineers began to kill just for the sake of killing. He planned to reduce the island's population to around 45 so that their supplies would last as long as possible. By the time it was over, he and his followers murdered at least 110 of the survivors.

Help returns

The soldiers that had been left to die on a neighboring island did not perish. When Pelsaert returned with help,a race to the rescue ship ensued between Cornelisz's men and the neighboring soldiers. Wiebbe Hayes and his soldiers reached the ship first, and were able to present their side of the story to Pelsaert. After a short battle, the combined force captured all of the mutineers. Pelsaert decided to conduct a trial on the islands, as De Zaandam would have been otherwise overcrowded with survivors and prisoners on the return voyage to Batavia. After a brief trial, the worst offenders were executed. Cornelisz and several of the major mutineers had both hands chopped off before being hanged.

Aftermath

The remaining mutineers were taken to Batavia for trial. Five were hanged. The skipper Jacobsz, despite being tortured, did not confess to his part in planning the mutiny and escaped execution due to lack of evidence. What finally became of him is unknown but it is suspected that he died in prison in Batavia. A VOC board of inquiry decided that Pelsaert had exercised a lack of authority and was therefore partly responsible for what had happened. The soldier Wiebbe Hayes was hailed a hero and promoted.

Of the original 341 people on board Batavia, only 68 survived the voyage.

Description

The Batavia was a Dutch East Indiaman (spiegelretourschip).

Built in 1627-28 in Amsterdam for the Dutch East India Company (VOC).

  • Length: 160 ft
  • Width: 36 ft
  • Draft: 12.5 ft
  • Sail: 1180 m2
  • Cannons: 24
  • Crew and passengers: as many as 341
  • Port built: Amsterdam

De Batavia.

Replica

A replica of the Batavia was built by master carpenter Willem Vos in Lelystad. The Netherlands between 1985-95. The Batavia replica was built with traditional materials and wood as oak and hemp. Also tools were as traditional as possible.
For the design of the replica, the remains of the original ship in Fremantle together with the Vasa were used. 17th century building descriptions (actual building plans weren't made at the time), and prints and paintings by artists (who, at the time, generally painted fairly true to nature), of similar ships.
On 25 September 1999, the new Batavia was transported to Australia were she was the flagship for the Dutch Olympic team in 2000. On 12 June 2001, the ship returned to the Bataviawerf in Lelystad, where it remains on display to visitors.

References

References online

References in writing

  • Dash, M., 2002: Batavia's graveyard. The true story of the mad heretic who led history's bloodiest mutiny, New York, Three Rivers Press. 
  • Fabricius, J., 1986: Het beest uit zee. De ondergang van de Oostindiëvaarder 'Batavia', Den Haag.
  • Fuhrmann-Plemp van Duiveland, M.R.C., 1976: Der Untergang der Batavia und andere Schiffsjournale und Originalberichte aus der grossen Zeit der niederländischen Seefahrt im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert. Herausgegeben, übertragen und kommentiert, Tübingen, Horst Erdmann.
  • Gibbs, M., 2002: Behavioral models of crisis response as a tool for archaeological interpretation - A case study of the 1629 wreck of the V.O.C. Ship Batavia.
  • Pelsaert, F., 1994: De schipbreuk van de Batavia, 1629, Zutphen, Walburg Pers.
  • Ongeluckige voyagie van t schip Batavia, 1648. Sources: DAS Number: 3072.1

East Indiaman

Roman structures