SAIL THE BATAVIA! 220 DAYS AND 219 NIGHTS CRUISING TO THE SPICE ISLANDS!
HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE MUTINY, RAPE, 80.06% CHANCE OF BEING MURDERED OR DROWNED AND GLORIOUS SUNSETS!
They didn’t have travel agents in the seventeenth century but if they had, that was perhaps how they could have promoted the maiden voyage of the good ship, Batavia, perhaps Australia’s most famous shipwreck.
She sailed from Holland on 27 October 1628, with 341 passengers and crew, bound for Batavia, (now modern day Jakarta), in Java.
She never made it.
During the voyage, the skipper Ariaen Jacobsz and one of the senior East India Company men on board, Jeronimus Cornelisz, hatched a plan to take the ship, and start a new life as pirates using the gold and silver on board to finance their sea change.
The skipper recruited some other starry-eyed dreamers among the crew and steered the ship off course, away from the rest of the accompanying fleet.
Unfortunately he steered it too far and the ship struck Morning Reef near Beacon Island in the Abrolhos Islands.
Only 40 people drowned in the wreck, the rest found themselves stranded on the islands, along with the mutineers.
Short of water, the chief Company official, Francois Pelsaert, and the skipper, Jacobsz went for help, sailing a 30 foot longboat around 1500 sea miles north to Batavia – it took them 33 days – one of the epic feats of navigation in maritime history.
Jacobsz would probably have made a very good pirate after all.
It didn’t end well for the mutineers on board however. The East India Company did not take well the loss of their ship or their gold.
They were found out and the bosun was executed and it is thought the skipper died in prison.
Pelsaert was sent back to the Abrolhos to retrieve the survivors but found only a handful alive, the rest had been murdered by Cornelisz and the other mutineers. Cornelisz even tried to hijack the ship sent to rescue them.
Pelsaert discovered that in his absence, Cornelisz and his followers had murdered over a hundred men, women, and children in cold blood – and raped the rest.
What is even more sinister is that he maintained that he himself never harmed anyone; he persuaded others to do the killing for him.
In another life I am sure he would have made it as a CEO of a multinational.
A replica of the Batavia, built at Batavia Wharf at Leyden in the Netherlands, was sailed to Darling Harbour in Sydney in 2000. It arrived this time without incident and was on display there for a year.
Meanwhile only a few of the bodies buried on those wild and isolated islands have been recovered but archaeologists from the University of Western Australia and the Western Australian Museum are still on Beacon Island examining archaeological sites.
They discovered another skeleton as recently as six months ago.
It’s why I have never liked cruises.