of the V.O.C.
(Vereinigde Oostindische Compagnie), known better as the Dutch East India Company
. As a merchant vessel the Batavia wouldn't be worthy of exceptional note were it not for the fact that its maiden voyage
resulted in the largest massacre of europeans on Australian
In 1629, captained by the merchant Captain Francisco Pelsaert
it set sail for Batavia
- now Jakarta
- in the Dutch East Indies
as part of a fleet. Dutch Mariners had recently discovered that once you rounded the Cape of Good Hope
, you did not have to make a beeline across the Indian Ocean
to the East Indies, but could instead sail to the Roaring Forties
and allow the winds of the fortieth parallel to blow you eastwards. This was a great idea, unless you happened to crash into Australia. Pelsaert was unfortunate enough to crash a brand new ship into the Abrolhos Islands
. He then took a party of men and rowed a longboat
over 3000km to the Timor Sea
- a feat worthy of mention in itself.
In his absence an undermerchant named Jeronimus Cornelisz
was in charge. His first act was to send a group of the best soldiers, the only real threat to his authority, unarmed to the furthest island, ostensibly in order to find water. He sent other survivors to the closer islands, and being both a violent psychopath
and man charismatic enough to maintain a band of loyal followers. All the survivors in the nearer islands not loyal to him were hunted down and killed, save some of the women, who were spared to cook and provide sexual favours, and some of the men, who provided labour. 125 in all were killed.
The soldiers who had been sent to their deaths under the pretence of searching for water, had, ironically, been sent to the only island with food and access to a considerable store of water. They had been sent to the best island in the Abrolhos, and while Cornelisz had thought them dead, they had rearmed with makeshift weapons. Cornelisz discovered that they were still alive when he saw smoke coming from their island, and proceeded to launch attacks on them. When Pelsaert returned in the Sardaam
, he found a civil war. He almost supported the wrong side and lost his ship. He restored order hanged Cornelisz and 6 of his followers. As an act of mercy, two others were made to row to the mainland. Jan Pelgrom de Bye
and Wouter Looes
became the first white Australians.
The story of the VOC Batavia has also been made into an opera
that is probably best left alone.