In 1629, with a fleet of six other ships, the Batavia was bound for Java to load a cargo of spices. Maurie Hutchinson shared with us the story of how it ended up wrecked on a reef off the coast off Western Australia.
One night, while in the southern India Ocean, the captain of the Batavia had deliberately separated his ship from the fleet as the first step in a plan hatched by Jeronimus Cornelisz the Under Merchant aboard the ship.
The intention was to take over the ship kill the Upper Merchant, and any who would not join the mutiny, keep the fortune in silver, which was to be used to buy spices, and become pirates.
When the ship was wrecked the ship’s captain with the Upper Merchant and forty-six others made the difficult 2,000-mile passage to Java in one of the ship’s boats. Of the more than 300 people aboard the Batavia around two hundred reached the low islands near the reef. Over the subsequent weeks, more than half of these were murdered by the supporters of Cornelisz who set himself up as the ruler. When the ship’s boat reached Java, a ship was sent to the islands to rescue the survivors.