The story of the Batavia must be one of the most fascinating, if horrifying, sailing shipwreck stories of all time.
by Rob Tickner/Sail-World Cruising
It combines a tale of derring-do, of sea-faring adventure, mutiny, love, lust, blood-lust, petty fascist dictatorship, criminality, a reign of terror, murders most foul, sexual slavery, natural nobility, survival, retribution, rescue, first contact with native peoples with the unlikely tale of the birth of the world's first corporation, the brutality of colonisation, the battle of good versus evil, the and so much more.
The story is set in 1629, when the pride of the Dutch East India Company, the Batavia, is on its maiden voyage en route from Amsterdam to the Dutch East Indies, laden down with the greatest treasure to leave Holland.
The magnificent ship is already boiling over with a mutinous plot that is just about to break into the open when, just off the coast of Western Australia, it strikes an unseen reef in the middle of the night.
While Commandeur Francisco Pelsaert decides to take the long-boat across 2000 miles of open sea for help, his second-in-command Jeronimus Cornelisz takes over, quickly deciding that 250 people on a small island is unwieldy for the small number of supplies they have.
Quietly, he puts forward a plan to 40-odd mutineers how they could save themselves, kill most of the rest and spare only a half-dozen or so women, including his personal fancy, Lucretia Jansz - one of the noted beauties of Holland - to service their sexual needs.
A reign of terror begins, countered only by a previously anonymous soldier Wiebbe Hayes, who begins to gather to him those are prepared to do what it takes to survive...hoping against hope that the Commandeur will soon be coming back to them with the rescue yacht.
It all happened, long ago, and it is for a very good reason that Peter FitzSimons has long maintained that this is 'far and away the greatest story in Australia's history, if not the world's.'
Well, Peter, as the ship was not on its way to Australia, but on its way to the Dutch East Indies, strictly speaking it's not an Australian story at all. But it did happen close to the West Australian coastline, so let us not split straws. This is also not the first book that has been written about the shipwreck of the Batavia, but Peter FitzSimons' captivating style is sure to make it a popular read.
You can easily buy an earlier version of the shocking tale, which has been available for many years, either at your bookstore or online. If the newer Peter FitzSimons version is not available at your local marine book store, you can buy it online by clicking here?nid=82061
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1:31 AM Tue 5 Apr 2011 GMT
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