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Batavia


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A Dutch East Indiaman, widely known for its bloodthirsty mutiny after it had hit a reef in the Houtman Abrolhos off the Western Australian coast in 1629. About 250 of the 316 people aboard, including women and children, managed to reach some nearby, waterless, coral islands, and Francisco Pelsaert, the ship's commander, and 46 of the crew sailed two small boats to Batavia (now Jakarta) to get help. In his absence, an under-merchant, Jeronimus Cornelisz, took charge of the castaways and declared himself governor of the new community. Those who opposed Cornelisz were promptly murdered by his followers—a grave containing some of them was excavated in 2001—and many were also killed simply to give the mutineers more space and food. However, the ship's soldiers, who had been sent to another island (West Wallabi) to search for water, which they found, managed to warn Pelsaert about the mutiny when he eventually returned. They helped him round up the mutineers, who were put on trial, and many, including Cornelisz, were executed. Two were marooned on the mainland, and were never heard of again. Pelsaert recovered nearly all the bullion that was aboard the Batavia, but on his return to Batavia he was criticized for leaving the survivors in the first place. The story stirred great interest in Holland and an account of the mutiny and murders was published in a highly illustrated book in 1648.

The site of the shipwreck was not found until 1963, and between 1972 and 1976 experts in marine archaeology at the Western Australian Maritime Museum carried out an extensive excavation of the site. Many artefacts and pieces of the ship were found, and parts of the hull were reconstructed and are now on view at the Western Australian Maritime Museum in Fremantle. Relics from the Batavia, including a large sandstone portico façade intended for the Castle of Batavia, may also be seen at the Western Australian Museum, Geraldton, and at the Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney.

A 17th-century replica ship based on the Batavia's remains, and named after her, was launched at Lelystad in Holland in 1995. In 2000 she was shipped to Australia to be exhibited, and to sail, during the Sydney Olympic Games, and was then shipped back to Lelystad.

Dash, M., Batavia's Graveyard: The True Story of the Mad Heretic who Led History's Bloodiest Mutiny (2002).Drake-Brockman, H., Voyage to Disaster (1963).Edwards, H., Islands of Angry Ghosts (1966).www.mm.wa.gov.au

Subjects: Maritime History.


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