VOC ship Batavia

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On 4 June 1629 the VOC ship (Dutch East India Company) Batavia struck a reef on the Houtman Abrolhos, west of Australia. The wrecking of VOC ships in itself is nothing special, it happened quite often in the long history of the VOC. What made this wrecking special was the extraordinary tragedy that followed afterwards. The commander of the ship, Francisco Pelsaert, together with all the senior officers, a few crew members and some passengers, left the wreck site in search of water, leaving behind 268 people still alive on the wreck. The commanders' group soon aborted the search for water on the mainland and made their way to Batavia, now Jakarta. This journey took 33 days, and after the arrival in Batavia, Pelsaert was sent back to rescue the survivors that where still on the wreck. He arrived on the wreck site 63 day after leaving Batavia, only to discover that a mutiny had taken place.

A group of mutineers, with Jeronimus Cornelisz as their leader, had murdered a total of 125 men, women and children. After a short battle the mutineers were captured. The worst offenders were executed on the island after a short trial. The lesser offenders were taken back to Batavia to be tried. In Batavia most of them were executed, after already having received punishment like flogging, keelhauling and being dropped from the yard arm.

Commander Pelsaert died in the following year, leaving behind his journal of the events. This journal, together with a book written in the years after the incident, Ongeluckige voyagie van 't schip Batavia, made it possible to rediscover the wreck. Journalist Hugh Edwards published an account of the wrecking and the discovery of the wreck by Dave Johnson, Max and Gerard Cramer and Greg Allen, under the name Island of Angry Ghosts.

In 1972 the Netherlands transferred all rights to Dutch shipwrecks on the Australian coasts to Australia. Various items, including human remains, which were excavated are now on display in a museum in Freemantle, Australia.