Dutch East Indiaman
Three Masted Ship
Length/Beam/Draft: – 150 x 36 x 14 (45.7m x 11m x 4.3m)
Weight: – 600 tons
Hull: – wood
Complement including crew and passengers: – 300
Armament: – 28 guns
Built By: – VOC, Amsterdam, Netherlands; 1628
Named after the Dutch entrepot on the island of Java, the Dutch East India Company’s (VOC’s) retour ship (a ship designed for the roundtrip between the Netherlands and the East Indies) Batavia sailed from the Texel in a fleet of eleven ships on October 29, 1628. Batavia’s captain was Adriaen Jacobsz.
After rounding the Cape of Good Hope, VOC ships were ordered to sail east for 2,400-3,000 miles (depending on the season) between 36°S and 42°S before turning northeast or North for Java. As there was no way to determine longitude at sea, shipwrecks on the west coast of Australia were inevitable. Jacobsz underestimated the ship’s progress, and in the middle of the night on 4 June 1629, Batavia ran aground on what Pelseart described as the perilous shallows of the Abrolhos, otherwise called by the Dutch the Frederick Houtmann’s rocks’.
Efforts to save the ship were useless, and the ship’s company was divided between two nearby islands, with 180 placed on one and 40 on the other. Two days later, Pelsaert set out to look for water with two of the ship’s boats. Finding no water, on 16 June 1629 Pelsaert headed for Java and with 48 people in one boat managed to reach Batavia without incident on 8 July. A week later, Sardam sailed for the Arohlos with a crew of 26, including some Gujarati Indian divers, but adverse winds kept them at sea until 17 September.
In the meantime, a mutiny led by Jeronimus Cornelisz had led to the murder of more than 100 castaways, including 12 women and seven children. When the Sardam arrived the mutineers were captured and immediately tried aboard the ship. Seven of them were hanged on Seal Island on 2 October, and two more were ordered marooned on the mainland. Of Batavia’s original complement, 60 drowned in the wreck and 125 were murdered. On 15 November, Sardam sailed with the 74 survivors, nine chests of silver, two cannon, and other salvaged items with a combined value of 210,500 guilders.
The ship was all but forgotten until various artefacts were found in the Abrohlos in 1960. Divers found partial remains of the ship itself lodged on Morning Reef.
A replica of the Batavia was launched at Lelystad, Netherlands, in 1995.
Izak J H Hough
Member of The Nautical Research Guild