Francisco Pelsaert’s unlucky voyage
Ongeluckige Voyagie (‘unlucky voyage’) tells the story of the Batavia, commanded by Francisco Pelsaert (c.1591–1630).
Setting sail from Amsterdam to Batavia (present-day Jakarta) in October 1628, this flagship of the Dutch East India Company carried 316 passengers, soldiers and crew, and precious cargo that included jewels and silver coin.
On 4 June 1629, the watch made a fatal error and the ship ran aground on Morning Reef, off Houtman’s Abrolhos, near Geraldton, Western Australia. (The Batavia was deep south to take advantage of strong westerly trade winds.)
Forty people drowned. Leaving the rest on two deserted coral islands, Pelsaert and 47 others set off in two of the ship’s boats to organise a rescue.
In their absence, Jeronimus Cornelisz (ship’s undermerchant) seized the Batavia’s treasure and, with his followers, began to rape and systematically kill off the other survivors.
When Pelsaert returned from Batavia 96 days later, over 100 people had been murdered or had died of disease.
The mutineers were captured, tried, found guilty of murder (and, in the case of Cornelisz, heresy) and hanged. Two men were abandoned on the mainland and another six were later hanged in Batavia.