The Batavia Has it All – Mutiny, Shipwreck and Murder

batavia freemantle museumBatavia was a ship which belonged to the Dutch East India Company. It was built in Amsterdam in 1628 and armed with 24 cast-iron cannons and a number of bronze guns.

  • On 27th October, 1628, she sailed from Texel in The Netherlands to the Dutch East Indies, on a her maiden voyage to obtain spices. It sailed under the commandment of senior merchant Francisco Pelsaert, with Ariaen Jacobsz as his skipper.
  • Also on board was the junior merchant Jeronimus Cornelisz, a bankrupt pharmacist from Haarlem who was fleeing The Netherlands, in fear of arrest because of his heretical beliefs associated with the painter Johannes van der Beeck, (aka) Torrentius.

During the voyage, Jacobsz and Cornelisz conceived a plan to take the ship, which would allow them to start a new life somewhere, using the huge supply of trade gold and silver which would then be on board. They had already gathered a small group of men around them and arranged an incident from which the mutiny was to ensue.

  • After leaving Cape Town, where they had stopped for supplies, Jacobsz deliberately steered the ship off course, away from the rest of the fleet. Batavia became shipwrecked and was made famous by the subsequent mutiny and massacre that took place among her survivors.

In 1972, The Netherlands transferred all rights to Dutch shipwrecks on the Australian coasts to Australia. Some of the items, including human remains, which were excavated, are now on display in the Western Australian Museum – Shipwreck Galleries in Fremantle. Others are held by the Western Australian Museum, Geraldton, north west of Fremantle.

  • The Western Australian Museum in Fremantle houses the original timbers from the ship’s hull in its Shipwreck Galleries.
  • While a great deal of materials have been recovered from the shipwreck site, the majority of the cannons and anchors have been left in-situ.
  • As a result, the wreck remains one of the premier dive sites on the West Australian coast and is part of the Museum’s wreck trail, or underwater “museum-without-walls” concept.

A twentieth-century replica of the ship, also called the Batavia, can be visited in Lelystad, in The Netherlands. The Batavia replica was built with traditional materials, such as oak and hemp, and using the tools and methods of the time of the original ship’s construction. For the design, good use was made of the remains of the original ship in Fremantle.

  • On 25 September 1999, the new Batavia was transported to Australia by barge, and moored at the National Maritime Museum in Sydney.
  • In 2000, Batavia was the flagship for the Dutch Olympic Team during the 2000 Olympic Games. During its stay in Australia, the ship was towed to the ocean once, where it sailed on its own.
  • On 12 June 2001, the ship returned to the Bataviawerf in Lelystad, where it remains on display to visitors.
  • On the evening of 13 October 2008, a fire ripped through the wharf.  Luckily, the  moored Batavia was never in danger.

The reservation and the preservation of the Batavia shows that “breaking up is hard to do“.

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