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In 1628 the Dutch East India Company loaded the Batavia, the flagship of its fleet, with a king’s ransom in gold, silver, and gems for her maiden voyage to Java; the ship itself was a tangible symbol of the world’s richest and most powerful monopoly. The company also sent along a new employee to guard its treasure. He was Jeronimus Corneliszoon, a disgraced and bankrupt ma In 1628 the Dutch East India Company loaded the Batavia, the flagship of its fleet, with a king’s ransom in gold, silver, and gems for her maiden voyage to Java; the ship itself was a tangible symbol of the world’s richest and most powerful monopoly. The company also sent along a new employee to guard its treasure. He was Jeronimus Corneliszoon, a disgraced and bankrupt man with great charisma and dangerously heretical ideas. With the help of a few disgruntled sailors, he hatched a plot to seize the ship and her riches. The mutiny might have succeeded, but in the dark morning hours of June 3, 1629, the Batavia smashed through a coral reef and ran aground on a small chain of islands near Australia. The captain and skipper escaped the wreck, and in a tiny lifeboat they set sail for Java—some 1,500 miles north—to summon help. More than 250 frightened survivors waded ashore, thankful to be alive. Unfortunately, Jeronimus and the mutineers had survived too, and the nightmare was only beginning.


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In 1628 the Dutch East India Company loaded the Batavia, the flagship of its fleet, with a king’s ransom in gold, silver, and gems for her maiden voyage to Java; the ship itself was a tangible symbol of the world’s richest and most powerful monopoly. The company also sent along a new employee to guard its treasure. He was Jeronimus Corneliszoon, a disgraced and bankrupt ma In 1628 the Dutch East India Company loaded the Batavia, the flagship of its fleet, with a king’s ransom in gold, silver, and gems for her maiden voyage to Java; the ship itself was a tangible symbol of the world’s richest and most powerful monopoly. The company also sent along a new employee to guard its treasure. He was Jeronimus Corneliszoon, a disgraced and bankrupt man with great charisma and dangerously heretical ideas. With the help of a few disgruntled sailors, he hatched a plot to seize the ship and her riches. The mutiny might have succeeded, but in the dark morning hours of June 3, 1629, the Batavia smashed through a coral reef and ran aground on a small chain of islands near Australia. The captain and skipper escaped the wreck, and in a tiny lifeboat they set sail for Java—some 1,500 miles north—to summon help. More than 250 frightened survivors waded ashore, thankful to be alive. Unfortunately, Jeronimus and the mutineers had survived too, and the nightmare was only beginning.

30 review for Batavia's Graveyard: The True Story of the Mad Heretic Who Led History's Bloodiest Mutiny

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    Where to begin. Non-fiction story of a shipwreck. A Dutch East India company ship carrying over 300 people, chests of silver coins and the prefabricated gateway to the fort at Batavia (Jakarta) ran aground on a coral reef 50 miles west of Australia. Most of those onboard survived. Only after they disembarked on Houtman's Abrolhos, a misery inducing collection of low coral islands did it all start to get much worse, eventually very few manage to survive and make it to the Dutch East Indies and not Where to begin. Non-fiction story of a shipwreck. A Dutch East India company ship carrying over 300 people, chests of silver coins and the prefabricated gateway to the fort at Batavia (Jakarta) ran aground on a coral reef 50 miles west of Australia. Most of those onboard survived. Only after they disembarked on Houtman's Abrolhos, a misery inducing collection of low coral islands did it all start to get much worse, eventually very few manage to survive and make it to the Dutch East Indies and not because they ran out of wallabies or sea lion to eat either. Reading this book, I thought of Lord of the Flies, but also of Rites of Passage, perhaps Golding was aware of the story, the wreck site was rediscovered in June 1963 (view spoiler)[ about 250 Dutch East India company ships are known to have sunk of which about one third have been excavated, so there are plenty out there from the Netherlands to Indonesia waiting to be discovered, piles of silver coin lying around on the sea bed (hide spoiler)] and then comprehensively stripped over for a second (view spoiler)[ or third, depending on how you are counting (hide spoiler)] the salvaged canon and the gate to the fort at Jakarta are apparently on display in Fremantle(view spoiler)[ I assume it was offered first to the Indonesians, but maybe not (hide spoiler)] , later a replica of the ship was built in the Netherlands - this took a team of modern craftsmen ten years from the mid 80s through to the mid 90s, their predecessors knocked the original out in a few months, but then they had practise and a wharf and slipway designed to facilitate the rapid construction of such a vessel. Anyway if you can imagine the crew and passengers of Rites of Passage with their class distinctions, hierarchies, sexual tensions(view spoiler)[ but without an Anglican Priest parting his ceremonial robes to receive sexual services from a seaman (hide spoiler)] , habituation to casual violence, shipwrecked with little hope of rescue one might imagine that what Lord of the Flies teaches us above all is how sweet and innocent even schoolboys are compared to that more mixed group. I also thought that it was a surprise that nobody had made a film of the story(view spoiler)[ but maybe they have and luckily I've never seen it (hide spoiler)] , as a film it would never be a summer blockbuster because the film classification would restrict viewing pretty sharply based on the content, it would be the kind of film only on late at night, that you'd sit through, regretting having done so afterwards and resolving to always sleep with a rolling pin by your side there after. I don't want to say much more about the actual story than that for fear of spoiling the events if you haven't been comprehensively warned off by now, let me say the reading experience is far less graphic than the action of the imagination. Dash starts out with the outward voyage of the Batavia, there are the familiar problems of Longitude and scurvy (view spoiler)[ if travelling back in time you find yourself a sea Captain don't forget the sauerkraut, it'll save your teeth and prevent bleeding gums (hide spoiler)] he lead the ship on to the coral reef and the evacuation and then with three hundred odd people faced with the prospect of running out of water waltzes off on the back story of the Dutch East India company and the biographies of some of the main people on board as far as they are known, he takes a leisurely hundred or so pages to get back to shipwrecked people which I felt rather careless seeing as they were thirsty and facing exposure and a not very hopefully future. Only of course when he does get back to the story that is when things really start to go wrong. (view spoiler)[ essentially the Captain (view spoiler)[ which in context is less strange than it seems (hide spoiler)] and some of the crew ferment the idea of staging a bloody mutiny and becoming pirates, despite being shipwrecked, enough of them are determined to stick to this plan (view spoiler)[ in for a penny in for Pieces of eight! Pieces of Eight! I suppose (hide spoiler)] to really ruin the voyages of many of the other survivors (view spoiler)[ because there are quite a few things worse than subsisting on a diet of wallaby and sea-lion as it turns out (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] and then of course (view spoiler)[ along comes Justice with the long sword of the law (view spoiler)[ and by sword, I don't mean sword I mean something much blunter, slower and more painful, for Justice must be seen to be done by as many people as possible because the seventeenth century was much more medieval when it came to crime and punishment than the middle ages (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] but there is also mercy in the world (view spoiler)[ relatively speaking, I admit I haven't been to Western Australia in the early seventeenth century, but then I haven't been a teenager brought face to face with the long sword of the law either (hide spoiler)] and one or two of the sentences were commuted to being marooned on the western coast of Australia. There follows some speculation as to the fates of the men so treated, some writers considering the tragic propensity of men of the Nanda people to baldness as proof definite of partial Dutch ancestry (view spoiler)[ there is no mention of residual loyalty to the House of Orange or adherence to the tenets of the Dutch Reformed Church (hide spoiler)] , but what mere doubt can stand in the path of a receding hairline when nothing stops that tide from going out. Though dash goes on to mention some more Dutch shipwrecks off that coast so the gentlemen so punished in this story didn't necessarily get to become a pater patriae. With a critical hat on (view spoiler)[ which helps to keep the burning rays of enthusiasm at bay, and afterall you don't want to end up like Don Quixote the treatment of one of the main characters is a bit of a weakness, literally in the last pages the idea of his being a psychopath is introduced, I'd have preferred to have seen that idea developed and explored somewhat earlier although to use layman's terms the idea that he may have been barking mad is not a surprise. Dash lays some stress on his Anabaptist background and possible exposure to Epicureanism and the ideas of the Rosicrucians, though some of what he said (allegedly) to the effect that nothing is a sin to one of the Elect reminds me more of The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution as it was one of the spiritual crises that Calvinists could get into in the seventeenth century (view spoiler)[ it doesn't seem to have been much of a problem since, but I'm not a church goer (hide spoiler)] . Skeletal remains of the victims have also been recovered, the injuries don't match up with those described in the written accounts, however the bones show signs of various stresses -in particular having been close to starvation and malnutrition, these Dash comments the stresses and facts of life that drove people to try their fortunes in the East Indies were many Europeans died of disease. The Dutch Golden Age was not an age of gold for all Dutch people. Anyway, a real life William Golding story with added Gujarati divers, and treasure. (hide spoiler)]

  2. 5 out of 5

    'Aussie Rick'

    Batavia's Graveyard what a name for a book! I could not resist picking this book up as soon as I saw it and I am so happy that I did. It was one of the best historical tales I have read for some time. Being an Australian I knew something of the Batavia but not the full story. In fact I had examined in detail the re-constructed Batavia at the Maritime Museum in Sydney. I walked through the ship, checking out every nook and cranny on the upper and lower decks. However that was way before I read th Batavia's Graveyard what a name for a book! I could not resist picking this book up as soon as I saw it and I am so happy that I did. It was one of the best historical tales I have read for some time. Being an Australian I knew something of the Batavia but not the full story. In fact I had examined in detail the re-constructed Batavia at the Maritime Museum in Sydney. I walked through the ship, checking out every nook and cranny on the upper and lower decks. However that was way before I read this book. I never knew of the murder and mayhem that took place off the Western Australian coastline. This book not only gives you the full story of the voyage of the Batavia, its shipwreck, the fate of the survivors and the subsequent fate of the mutineers under Jeronimus Cornelisz. It also offers the reader a complete and compelling picture into the background to this disaster and at the same time it offers interesting stories on all the participants. By the time I was half way through the book I was furious that the mutineers had carried out their terrible deeds. The book had me caught up in the story so much it was like reading about a current disaster in the newspaper. I wanted Cornelisz and his followers to suffer untold pain and misery for their acts. The story is well told and gripping and the author has done his research well. The author supplies the reader with numerous tidbits of information regarding this period and this never detracts from the story but adds to it. It would have been nice to have some photographs of the Islands concerned to help paint the picture of desolation and even some photos of the recently re-constructed Batavia. Regardless of these very minor criticisms this book is a great historical story and I am sure that anyone who enjoys a good history will love this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Esteban del Mal

    "We have just come out of such a sorrow that the mind is still a little confused." -- Gijsbert Bastiaensz ***** Commerce. Psychopaths. What do the two have in common? If I were asked that before I read this book, I’d be glib and respond with something like “trajectory.” But no. I’ve learned it’s something called antinomianism. If you don’t know what that means, don’t get discouraged. I didn’t either. Not right away, at least. Oh, I’m sure I’d read it before somewhere, probably years ago when I was k "We have just come out of such a sorrow that the mind is still a little confused." -- Gijsbert Bastiaensz ***** Commerce. Psychopaths. What do the two have in common? If I were asked that before I read this book, I’d be glib and respond with something like “trajectory.” But no. I’ve learned it’s something called antinomianism. If you don’t know what that means, don’t get discouraged. I didn’t either. Not right away, at least. Oh, I’m sure I’d read it before somewhere, probably years ago when I was knee-deep in Karen Armstrong and had a more particular interest in the monotheistic religions that have informed civilizations for thousands of years. But, as the irreligious say, I’ve slept since then. Before I get to antinomianism, though, let me tell you a story. When I was a kid, I knew this other kid. We shall call him Sicko, so as to preserve his anonymity. Sicko was the first person my age I met upon moving to a new town. With adolescence looming, I was overjoyed to find myself just a few houses away from a fellow pre-teen traveler. But it soon dawned on me that age, gender and geography were poor rationales for friendship -- the two of us were completely different. I was an awkward and shy kid, but nevertheless independent, an only child who had just the year before lived in a single-parent home in Los Angeles County; contrariwise, Sicko was athletic and confident, yet oddly deferential, having been home schooled and subjected his entire life to a severely patrician Christian orthodoxy. When my family moved again, this time within the town, Sicko and I lost touch. It wouldn't be until we were both nineteen that we found ourselves in the same social circles. By this time, Sicko's family had moved to Alaska, leaving him the solitary occupant of their 2400 square foot home. He extended an invitation to me to roommate with him and I quickly accepted. Over the next few months, I saw firsthand how manipulative and slyly sadistic he had become. Especially toward women. Sicko was a handsome guy, much more handsome than me, and there were young women at the house on various occasions. Most, however, never visited more than once. Then one night I had to rescue one of those young women from Sicko when she called out my name in distress. Soon after this incident, I moved out. I wouldn't see Sicko again for several years, whereupon I learned that he worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative, had married into a fairly prominent banking family and had developed a taste for bestiality films. What's that saying about water seeking its own level? Anyway, antinomianism. It is defined by wikipedia.org as "belief originating in Christian theology that faith alone, not obedience to religious law, is necessary for salvation." Jernonimus Cornelisz, the fellow at the center of this story of bloody mutiny, took this to mean that he wasn't bound by the same laws as other homo sapiens. He aspired to a life of piracy and manipulated several people into committing all manner of atrocity, the most chilling being the hanging of an infant. Then he was butchered and himself hanged. I give this book five stars because it is meticulously researched, very well-written, and because I will remember the name Batavia for the rest of my life. If you'd like to read more about the actual mutiny itself, the information available on Wikipedia is not contradicted by the book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    read 2/04/2004 If you are planning on reading this, let me give you a heads up. What's between the covers of this book is NOT for the squeamish...I thought the story of the wreck of the Essex was bad but this takes the cake. Batavia's Graveyard was the name given to a small island off the western coast of Australia, now known as Beacon Island. I first became aware of this story, which is true, through a wonderful program on the History Channel about recent finds on that island by archaeologists ho read 2/04/2004 If you are planning on reading this, let me give you a heads up. What's between the covers of this book is NOT for the squeamish...I thought the story of the wreck of the Essex was bad but this takes the cake. Batavia's Graveyard was the name given to a small island off the western coast of Australia, now known as Beacon Island. I first became aware of this story, which is true, through a wonderful program on the History Channel about recent finds on that island by archaeologists hoping to solve some of the mysteries of what exactly happened there in 1629 and the years during which the islanders, survivors of the shipwreck of the Batavia, were literally being held captive by a group of mutineers under the command/control of one single psychopathic individual. This book most definitely measures up to my rigorous standards for reading history. It is excruciatingly well documented (this author has notes & sources for every little detail). Synopsis: In June, 1629, a ship filled with goods, money & jewels on its way to Java (the ship belongs to the Dutch EIC) is wrecked on a reef on an uninhabited island. To his credit, the captain managed to get all of the civilians traveling on the ship off of the ship and onto the island; there were in all about 250 survivors. He left them under the charge of one Jeronimus Cornelisz, certified nutcase who believed that anything a person did, including the taking of life, was sanctioned by God. The group divided itself onto three small islands all closely linked. What happens under his "leadership" was an outright tragedy and massacre. I won't go into specifics, but suffice it to say the Cornelisz and the gang that followed him reminded me a lot of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness. I've even seen this book called the Lord of the Flies for Adults...it wasn't that bad, but it was close. Throughout the story, the narrative of events on the islands is interspersed with details of history of the EIC; of the spice trade in general; of the process of shipbuilding in the Netherlands; of Java; pretty much anything at all connected with the story historically is brought up in here. Some parts I found to be a bit dull, but only because I'm not really interested in the history of shipbuilding. However, there's enough to keep you focused and indeed riveted when he gets around to the events on the islands and their aftermath. I would definitely recommend this book to those who are interested in shipwrecks or maritime history. Read this book slowly (or skim through the stuff you don't really like but savor the rest), because there is a wealth of information here. The author is thorough and the writing is good.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Veeral

    After reading this book, I think that under favorable circumstances, height of human cruelty could far surpass the physical height of Olympus Mons. Twice. Because if not for the hyperinflation and the Versailles treaty, Adolf Hitler would have been a shitty painter and Hermann Göring would have been an exceptionally shitty ballet dancer. But I never felt more confident about my assumptions (although they were derived after many complicated calculations and permutations) until I read Mike Dash's After reading this book, I think that under favorable circumstances, height of human cruelty could far surpass the physical height of Olympus Mons. Twice. Because if not for the hyperinflation and the Versailles treaty, Adolf Hitler would have been a shitty painter and Hermann Göring would have been an exceptionally shitty ballet dancer. But I never felt more confident about my assumptions (although they were derived after many complicated calculations and permutations) until I read Mike Dash's Batavia's Graveyard: The True Story of the Mad Heretic Who Led History's Bloodiest Mutiny. **Minor Spoilers Ahead** Batavia was a ship of the Dutch East India Company built in 1628 to procure spices from the East and as was the kind-of norm in the era, it was shipwrecked on her maiden voyage. But what made this incident different from others was the horror that followed owing to the mutiny and massacre that took place amongst the survivors stranded on the reefs of Abrolhos Islands off the coast of Western Australia. Batavia sailed under commandeur and upper-merchant Francisco Pelsaert and was captained by Ariaen Jacobsz. But the main villain of this tragedy was one frustrated under-merchant (working under upper-merchant Francisco Pelsaert), Jeronimus Cornelisz, who was a bankrupt apothecary (pharmacist) from the Netherlands who had left his wife behind forever in the Netherlands in order to escape from his creditors and find himself a comfortable life somewhere in the East, by any means. But what made Cornelisz truly dangerous was his mad belief in antinomianism: the theological doctrine that by faith and God's grace a Christian is freed from all laws (including the moral standards of the culture). Even murder. Or rape. Mike Dash has provided detailed and interesting background information on all the major characters which mainly includes Francisco Pelsaert, Ariaen Jacobsz and Jeronimus Cornelisz. The book could be considered to be divided in two major parts. The shipwrecking is described in the first chapter and then Mike Dash delineates the chain of events that eventually led to Batavia's doom. The second half deals with the massacre committed by Cornelisz and his fellow mutineers on the islands and its aftermath. There was some previous history between Francisco Pelsaert and the captain of Batavia, Ariaen Jacobsz who had previously encountered each other in Surat, India. The encounter had left a bitter taste in the mouth for Ariaen Jacobsz as he was publicly reprimanded, and that too quite sternly by Francisco Pelsaert regarding disciplinary issues. So during the voyage, Jacobsz and Cornelisz (driven by his greed and beliefs) conceived a plan to take the ship by mutiny, which would allow them to start a new life as the ship contained lots of silver and moreover they also decided to get more rich by becoming pirates. Jacobsz deliberately steered the ship off course, away from the rest of the fleet (There were more than half a dozen ships with the “Batavia”). The ship struck Morning Reef, part of the Abrolhos islands off the Western Australian coast. Of the 322 passengers aboard, 40 people drowned in the initial disaster. They were luckier than those who were to die on the islands. The survivors were transferred to nearby islands which contained no fresh water and only very limited food in form of birds and some sea-lions. No rescue was coming as they were way off course, so Captain Jacobsz alongwith Francisco Pelsaert, senior officers, a few crewmembers, and some passengers left the wreck site in a longboat, and headed north to the city of Batavia (Jakarta). This journey, which they completed successfully, was a feat in itself. But on the other hand, in the absence of his two superiors, Jeronimus Cornelisz was left in charge of the survivors. He was afraid that Pelsaert might discover his mutinous plans. Therefore, he made plans to hijack any rescue ship that might return and use the vessel to seek another safe haven. With a dedicated band of murderous young men, he began to systematically (at first) kill anyone he believed would be a problem to his reign of terror, or a burden on their limited resources. The mutineers became intoxicated with killing, and no one could stop them which led to a splurge of random killings. But Cornelisz had also left some soldiers on another island who were led by one Wiebbe Hayes, and to their good fortune, they had found abundant sources of water and food on the other island. With his own supply dwindling, Cornelisz decided to take over Hayes’ island (by killing everyone there, of course). The events that ensued were nothing sort of dramatic, so I am not going to ruin it for anyone. But the naked truth is that that of the original 341 people on board the Batavia, only 68 made it safely to the port of Batavia (Jakarta). So know this, although this book is well written, I am not recommending it for everyone as the second half is extremely graphic and gruesome. You will have to decide for yourself on this one.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chrisl

    Horrible behavior. Had not read previously details of shipwreck/mutiny. Expect there are many informative reviews about book. Skimmed some ... familiar with background, spice trade, Dutch culture of era, exploiting expeditions, etc. One of those 3.53 reading experiences. (3.53 is my most likely used star cluster.) *** Physical book came via interlibrary loan from another 'temporarily' closed public county library. Ordered before our local library closed to the public. Would be useful to see which l Horrible behavior. Had not read previously details of shipwreck/mutiny. Expect there are many informative reviews about book. Skimmed some ... familiar with background, spice trade, Dutch culture of era, exploiting expeditions, etc. One of those 3.53 reading experiences. (3.53 is my most likely used star cluster.) *** Physical book came via interlibrary loan from another 'temporarily' closed public county library. Ordered before our local library closed to the public. Would be useful to see which libraries are continuing to mail books to and from other closed to the public facilities. Should any?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kaethe Douglas

    There's no point telling what the book is about, because the whole thing is too unlikely. But the Spouse saw a documentary on the subject, which was excellent, and my response to hearing about a great narrative is always to read a book. And then, there's nothing like reading about a shipwreck to put your own troubles into perspective. So, seventeenth-century shipwreck off the coast of Australia turns into a scenario that makes Lord of the Flies look civilized. Read it because Dash gives you enoug There's no point telling what the book is about, because the whole thing is too unlikely. But the Spouse saw a documentary on the subject, which was excellent, and my response to hearing about a great narrative is always to read a book. And then, there's nothing like reading about a shipwreck to put your own troubles into perspective. So, seventeenth-century shipwreck off the coast of Australia turns into a scenario that makes Lord of the Flies look civilized. Read it because Dash gives you enough of the background to place the historical events into context. Read it because the whole time you'll be yelling out "no WAY." If you read this first you'd understand why the European stories of the day were full of unlikely incidents and implausible timing. The subtitle points to the narrative focus and I disagree with the author's conclusion of "mad", but at least they're upfront about the body count. When they say "worse things happen at sea" I always thought the meant slowly starving as a castaway on a desert isle, I never realized it was in reference to other people. Way. Library copy

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    Fascinating true account of the mutiny, shipwreck on what is now known as Beacon Island near Australia and subsequent blood-filled killings. This involved a Dutch East India [VOC] ship Batavia on its way to Java in the 17th century. The mutiny was led by a half-crazed charismatic ship's officer with horrendous results. Conditions on shipboard as described were terrible. The epilogue described present-day archeological expeditions that found the results. The author researched very well, with bo Fascinating true account of the mutiny, shipwreck on what is now known as Beacon Island near Australia and subsequent blood-filled killings. This involved a Dutch East India [VOC] ship Batavia on its way to Java in the 17th century. The mutiny was led by a half-crazed charismatic ship's officer with horrendous results. Conditions on shipboard as described were terrible. The epilogue described present-day archeological expeditions that found the results. The author researched very well, with both extensive primary and secondary material. Highly recommended but the reader should have a strong stomach.

  9. 4 out of 5

    J.S.

    I've read a number of books that deal with shipwrecks and the exploration of the seas, and with summer approaching I wanted something that would be a bit of fun and adventure (of the armchair variety). I'm not sure this was the best choice for that! The story of the maiden voyage of the Dutch East Indies (VOC) ship Batavia as the Dutch were still beginning their exploitation of the spice trade. Although a mutiny was being planned by the ship's skipper Ariaen Jacobsz and Jeronimus Cornelisz, the 2 I've read a number of books that deal with shipwrecks and the exploration of the seas, and with summer approaching I wanted something that would be a bit of fun and adventure (of the armchair variety). I'm not sure this was the best choice for that! The story of the maiden voyage of the Dutch East Indies (VOC) ship Batavia as the Dutch were still beginning their exploitation of the spice trade. Although a mutiny was being planned by the ship's skipper Ariaen Jacobsz and Jeronimus Cornelisz, the 2nd highest ranking VOC company man, the ship ran aground on an unknown reef (Houtman's Abrolhos) and was rapidly destroyed. With most of the crew and passengers landed on a barren island, the skipper and the top company man Francisco Pelsaert (who outranked the ship's skipper) set off with a crew in a small boat to attempt to reach Java. In the meantime, Cornelisz spread the soldiers and sailors among the three nearest islands to better put into effect his mutinous plans, and thus began an orgy of killing and mayhem leaving about 120 men, women, and children murdered. As I said, this is not a seafaring castaway yarn about survival on desert islands. It's not for the faint of heart or the squeamish, and may even be harder to read in some respects than In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. Nonetheless, it's a fascinating and well-told story of the tragedy of the Batavia and its survivors. Dash presents a lot of detail and information in an exceptionally readable manner. He tells us not only of the backgrounds of the principal characters (Cornelisz, Pelsaert, and Jacobsz) but many others - and yet it never feels like you're drowning in information. He also includes what became of each of the survivors, or at least what was known of them, and the latter efforts to locate the exact location of the shipwreck. And the "Notes" are often every bit as interesting and compelling as the story itself. Overall, a great read - just beware that the Batavia was a pretty sad story.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    A very interesting book on the sinking and mutiny on the Dutch East India company ship the Batavia in the 17th century. The result was murder, destruction, and the first known Europeans in Australia. Fascinating, horrifying, and compelling in equal measures. Highly recommended.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Gary Brecht

    Not even the most sanguine of Shakespeare’s plays or the goriest of Ancient Greek dramas can match the horror of this true life tale. Mike Dash vividly retells the story of a 17th Century Dutch East Indiaman’s collision with a coral reef off the west coast of Australia. Unbeknownst to most of the 270 passengers aboard the ship, a psychopath of high rank survived the crash. It was he, Jeronimus Cornelisz, a failed apothecary from Haarlem in the Netherlands, who eventually was responsible for the Not even the most sanguine of Shakespeare’s plays or the goriest of Ancient Greek dramas can match the horror of this true life tale. Mike Dash vividly retells the story of a 17th Century Dutch East Indiaman’s collision with a coral reef off the west coast of Australia. Unbeknownst to most of the 270 passengers aboard the ship, a psychopath of high rank survived the crash. It was he, Jeronimus Cornelisz, a failed apothecary from Haarlem in the Netherlands, who eventually was responsible for the murders of 115 men, women and children who initially survived the shipwreck. Narrated in novelistic fashion and replete with carefully researched authenticity, this fascinating story is told with such grisly detail that it is difficult to put the book down, even for a moment’s respite from the discomfiture it engenders.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kay

    A School for Sociopaths When the Dutch merchant ship Batavia ran aground on a barren coral atoll off the northwest coast of Australia in 16629, the passengers and crew found themselves in a near hopeless plight, with scant water and little hope of rescue. What sets this shipwreck tale apart is not the depiction of the harrowing conditions that followed, although harrowing they were, but of the survivors' "Lord of the Flies"-esque descent into savagery, led by a psychopathic Svengali figure, one J A School for Sociopaths When the Dutch merchant ship Batavia ran aground on a barren coral atoll off the northwest coast of Australia in 16629, the passengers and crew found themselves in a near hopeless plight, with scant water and little hope of rescue. What sets this shipwreck tale apart is not the depiction of the harrowing conditions that followed, although harrowing they were, but of the survivors' "Lord of the Flies"-esque descent into savagery, led by a psychopathic Svengali figure, one Jeronimus Cornelisz, a failed apothecary and heretic. Dash does a fine job of painting background -- not only of what impelled Cornelisz to accept a job as "under merchant" aboard the Batavia but also of describing life aboard the ship (unsanitary and gruesome in the extreme) and of the practices of the Dutch East India Company. A mutiny is already afoot when the shipwreck occurs, and the pacing quickens as Cornelisz seizes control of the band of sailor/soldier mutineers and bends others to his will, often making them kill others to gain entry into the group he forces to pledge fealty to him. Reading this account of Cornelisz' "Heart of Darkness"-like sadism and madness, as he oversees the killing of 115 people, is nightmarish, almost hallucinogenic, despite (or perhaps because of?) the author's dispassionate tone. Perhaps even more disturbing was what happened when Cornelisz increased his ranks by means of a “kill or be killed” scenario -- almost all those he summoned unhesitatingly chose the former option. Once the killing began, I read compulsively on to find out what would ultimately happen to the dwindling number of sane and civilized people left on the chain of islands. Two things marred the book for me, however. One was what seemed like a random usage of first and last names. In one sentence, the author would refer to "Jeronimus" but in the next "Cornelisz," for example. There were dozens of figures to keep track of throughout the narrative, and this random first- and last-naming only made the book that much harder to follow. I couldn't discern any reason why Dash would refer to the captain of the Batavia as “Ariaen” in one context but “Jacobsz” in another. Weren’t these names not difficult enough without essentially doubling their number? It felt almost as if I were being being randomly tested. The other, perhaps more serious, objection has to do with the steady stream of conjecture that Dash employed to posit events, motives, and the fates of various persons. There obviously was scant documentation to support much of what he felt occurred, which led to a surfeit of expressions such as "It seems likely that..." or "One can conjecture...." or "So far as can be ascertained." This hedge-like language stands in stark contrast to the undeniably dramatic and undisputed events. Couldn’t Dash have let his footnotes explain his hypotheses in such cases?

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jon Turner

    Interesting story, but it suffers considerably from its author's propensity to wander off on tangents. My impression of about half of the book: "Finally, the governor-general was ready to deliver his sentence. Legal records show that there was one additional mutineer at the questioning, about whom all we know is that he had two missing teeth. Missing teeth were very common among 17th-century sailors, especially lower-ranking ones, who could have lost their teeth in many ways. Missing teeth would h Interesting story, but it suffers considerably from its author's propensity to wander off on tangents. My impression of about half of the book: "Finally, the governor-general was ready to deliver his sentence. Legal records show that there was one additional mutineer at the questioning, about whom all we know is that he had two missing teeth. Missing teeth were very common among 17th-century sailors, especially lower-ranking ones, who could have lost their teeth in many ways. Missing teeth would have been an inconvenience for a sailor, especially when chewing on salted meat and hard biscuits, and would have given him an appearance considered somewhat fearsome by ordinary townsmen, who would have kept their teeth clean by scraping them with forked twigs and salt paste. Regardless of the cause of these missing teeth, however, the scribe clearly felt that they were important enough to record in his summary of the proceedings. The fact that this particular mutineer's state of dental hygiene was considered remarkable says much about hygiene standards in general at a time when scurvy was exceptionally common on long voyages..."

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    If I ever wonder what life was like on a seventeenth century ship bound for the Far East, then this is the book to consult. Serious history, but written to be read instead of consulted, Batavia's Graveyard makes a time, a place and a cast of characters come alive off the page. The story, as it unfolds, becomes harrowing and somewhat depressing, as a community of shipwrecked survivors descend into a true life "Lord of the Flies". It's also a gripping narrative, and could as easily slot into a "Tr If I ever wonder what life was like on a seventeenth century ship bound for the Far East, then this is the book to consult. Serious history, but written to be read instead of consulted, Batavia's Graveyard makes a time, a place and a cast of characters come alive off the page. The story, as it unfolds, becomes harrowing and somewhat depressing, as a community of shipwrecked survivors descend into a true life "Lord of the Flies". It's also a gripping narrative, and could as easily slot into a "True Crime" tagging as an "Historical" one. I often feel let down by historical accounts that promise to read like a best-selling thriller, but this book really does, serving both to educate and entertain as you plough through it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Boudewijn

    Read in one go ... very chilling account that captivates you from the very first moment.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Vincent Hernot

    I knew nothing of this episode, and while I do know a lot about it now, it's obvious there's actually little to know...Paradoxical perhaps, but there you go. This is typically a great story that has little more than itself to give, and reading Dash's book, that's exactly how it comes across: a lot of padding to reach a decent size, a lot of hypothetical sentences, a lot of hedging ('It might be that...'; 'Perhaps he then felt that...'; 'We can imagine what he thought...'). It's not entirely the w I knew nothing of this episode, and while I do know a lot about it now, it's obvious there's actually little to know...Paradoxical perhaps, but there you go. This is typically a great story that has little more than itself to give, and reading Dash's book, that's exactly how it comes across: a lot of padding to reach a decent size, a lot of hypothetical sentences, a lot of hedging ('It might be that...'; 'Perhaps he then felt that...'; 'We can imagine what he thought...'). It's not entirely the writer's fault: most people in that story died, those who didn't often disappeared without a trace, and the few who survived and whom we can know something about are not used for anything but their part in the story. In a way, the Hollywood-sounding sub-title is symbolic of that: there was no mutiny on the ship, and the killings all took place on land (in fact, the mutiny element was reconstructed afterwards mostly through torture-based interrogations and the journal of the captain, which might raise the question of its authenticity) So Dash (the writer) adds information about the geography, the history of the islands, anecdotes about other sailors and boats, sea-journeys etc: all well and good, but often too tangentially related to the topic so that, yes, it feels like padding... This being said, there are some good bits too, both back- and foreground (e.g. on religious sentiments in the Netherlands then, on the workings of the VOC, on emigration), and the writing is lively enough. But 100 pages shorter and fewer unprovable hypotheses would have made this much more enjoyable.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    Brilliant. The historical detail was fascinating and the human drama mesmerizing. I understand why Simon Leys felt there was nothing more to say after this book. Thanks, Carol! Besides the account of the horrifying shipwreck and mutiny, there's a mass of detail about life in 17th century Holland, the growth of Amsterdam into a city, history of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), shipbuilding and so on, but it was never boring or dry. Mind you, I do have a soft spot for Dutch history and travel l Brilliant. The historical detail was fascinating and the human drama mesmerizing. I understand why Simon Leys felt there was nothing more to say after this book. Thanks, Carol! Besides the account of the horrifying shipwreck and mutiny, there's a mass of detail about life in 17th century Holland, the growth of Amsterdam into a city, history of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), shipbuilding and so on, but it was never boring or dry. Mind you, I do have a soft spot for Dutch history and travel literature after our sojourn there in 1995. After reading about the cramped and unsanitary conditions aboard 17th century VOC ships, I'm surprised anyone survived those journeys. What a contrast with Cook's voyages just over a hundred years later, and the pride he took in maintaining the health of all on board.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Life on a Dutch East India Company ship in the 1620s was pretty awful and nasty in the best of circumstances - but add shipwreck, mutiny, and murder to the mix and you have a particularly grim but fascinating story, exceptionally well-written. A quick and very entertaining read - best Mike Dash book that I have read to date.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sean Chick

    This might be the best book I have yet read in 2019. The account is gripping and one constantly has to say "This really did happen." Here is the gist. In 1629 the Batavia, the newest and most advanced Dutch ship, struck a reef. The two commanding officers left to fetch help, a voyage that was nearly impossible. When they miraculously returned they found most of the survivors had been massacred by a Protestant heretic hell bent on turning to piracy. The story is gruesome, including murder, tortur This might be the best book I have yet read in 2019. The account is gripping and one constantly has to say "This really did happen." Here is the gist. In 1629 the Batavia, the newest and most advanced Dutch ship, struck a reef. The two commanding officers left to fetch help, a voyage that was nearly impossible. When they miraculously returned they found most of the survivors had been massacred by a Protestant heretic hell bent on turning to piracy. The story is gruesome, including murder, torture, and rape. Babies were freely butchered. Any and all misanthropes can use this episode as exhibit A. Beyond the tale, Dash also discusses Dutch religion, commerce, and sailing practices at the time. What is uncovered is every bit as unsavory as the Batavia's bitter end. This is an age of religious intolerance, public torture, and greed that might make corners of Wall Street blush. While Dash does not explicitly state it, the brutality of the story is more than matched by the brutality of the times, mirroring each other. This is not a book for the faint of heart, but it cannot be matched as both an example of excellent prose and fair judgement. It offers a window into a world that is both foreign and familiar. After all, what goes on in this book is still occurring as we speak, only much more sanitized and often under the umbrella of "progress."

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    For a 400 year old shipwreck, the level of detail found in these pages is really quite remarkable. On June 4th, 1629, a Dutch spice ship named Batavia ran aground on a shoal located between the north coast of Australia and Java. There were more than 300 crew and passengers on board. The ship took two weeks to break apart. The overwhelming majority of people survived the shipwreck and dispersed to nearby shoals and islands. The commander took the two safety boats and navigated two thousand miles For a 400 year old shipwreck, the level of detail found in these pages is really quite remarkable. On June 4th, 1629, a Dutch spice ship named Batavia ran aground on a shoal located between the north coast of Australia and Java. There were more than 300 crew and passengers on board. The ship took two weeks to break apart. The overwhelming majority of people survived the shipwreck and dispersed to nearby shoals and islands. The commander took the two safety boats and navigated two thousand miles to get help food and water with the intent to return. Unbeknownst to the commander, even before the shipwreck there had been a mutiny brewing. The man left in charge of the island and survivors was the lead mutineer. What happened over the next two months — well it was a nightmare of epic proportion. 4 stars. I would have liked to have felt a more personal connection to the characters but strictly from a historical perspective it was a very good read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Charlene

    On its maiden voyage, the Batavia crashed into shallow waters and the passengers had to take smaller boats to an island in order to survive. What ensued was no less than an adult Lord of the Flies. What happens when you are short on resources? You start killing. Those who seized control killed people for the smallest infractions. It didn't matter if you were a man, woman, or baby. Once the killers got a taste of killing, they started killing just for the hell of it. I am glad I now know this sto On its maiden voyage, the Batavia crashed into shallow waters and the passengers had to take smaller boats to an island in order to survive. What ensued was no less than an adult Lord of the Flies. What happens when you are short on resources? You start killing. Those who seized control killed people for the smallest infractions. It didn't matter if you were a man, woman, or baby. Once the killers got a taste of killing, they started killing just for the hell of it. I am glad I now know this story but I feel like I am not the target audience. More than once I became bored and wanted the book to just hurry up and be done.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    This is the third nonfiction "shipwreck" type book I've read recently and it was my least favorite. Sometimes the super foreign names were hard to follow (and I speak German, which is somewhat close to Dutch) and I never was able to care about any of the characters. I think the fault may have lay in the sheer number of people who were involved in this story, far more than in The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty and In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of t This is the third nonfiction "shipwreck" type book I've read recently and it was my least favorite. Sometimes the super foreign names were hard to follow (and I speak German, which is somewhat close to Dutch) and I never was able to care about any of the characters. I think the fault may have lay in the sheer number of people who were involved in this story, far more than in The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty and In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette. But I much prefered the time period of this one, much earlier than Kingdom of Ice and a good century and then some before Bounty. It was also very interesting learning about the Netherlands at this point in history and how the majority of the characters came to be aboard the ship when it went down. All in all, great for the history, but none of the emotional attachment of similar books. More of a school-type read than a popular history book one might read for fun.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Simone Whitlow

    Finished in November. Mike Dash is brilliant at finding macabre tales then filling in the historical context. In putting narriative in the forefront he weaves historical epics which, while covering the era competently, put evocative story telling front and centre. This is not the dusty old history of Lord Acton and his cohort. As such Mr Dash writes on the early days of Dutch East Indies trade, the heretical Anabaptists, and early contact with Australia via the tale of psychopathic heretic Jeroni Finished in November. Mike Dash is brilliant at finding macabre tales then filling in the historical context. In putting narriative in the forefront he weaves historical epics which, while covering the era competently, put evocative story telling front and centre. This is not the dusty old history of Lord Acton and his cohort. As such Mr Dash writes on the early days of Dutch East Indies trade, the heretical Anabaptists, and early contact with Australia via the tale of psychopathic heretic Jeronimus Cornelisz, the heroic protagonist Weibbe Hayes, and the merchant Francisco Pelsaert, played out on a coral atoll now called Houtman Abrolhos. In one sentence heretic goes all Lord of the flies, and the good guys win in the end - but not before in the order of 110 innocents are slaughtered. This is precisely what history needs to be if the subject is to ever flourish again.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    What if you organized a mutiny and on the night before the planned attack your ship ran aground on a tiny deserted island group about 100 miles off the equally deserted west coast of Australia? That is a problem, just one of many that beset the mutineers as well as the several hundred innocent crew and passengers. How will the meager rations and fresh water be shared? Being somewhat off of established trade routes how can help be obtained? Taking advantage of Dutch records and personal accounts o What if you organized a mutiny and on the night before the planned attack your ship ran aground on a tiny deserted island group about 100 miles off the equally deserted west coast of Australia? That is a problem, just one of many that beset the mutineers as well as the several hundred innocent crew and passengers. How will the meager rations and fresh water be shared? Being somewhat off of established trade routes how can help be obtained? Taking advantage of Dutch records and personal accounts of survivors Mike Dash presents a thorough account of one of the most tragic and disgusting stories of shipwrecks in history. Although it occurred 400 years ago the author brings it alive. A great true story. I recommend this book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    A grim but fascinating chapter in the history of seventeenth century Dutch sailing that provided some great reading for me. Humanity can reach such great heights and such low depths under extreme circumstances. Some of traits are seen here in this recounting of a shipwreck off the western coast of Australia. Plus one gets a glimpse into the lives of these people trying to make their lives better. Not all of the people are fully realized, but the source material was not complete so that is understa A grim but fascinating chapter in the history of seventeenth century Dutch sailing that provided some great reading for me. Humanity can reach such great heights and such low depths under extreme circumstances. Some of traits are seen here in this recounting of a shipwreck off the western coast of Australia. Plus one gets a glimpse into the lives of these people trying to make their lives better. Not all of the people are fully realized, but the source material was not complete so that is understandable. None of that detracted me from wanting to know how it was all going to end. Such tragedy that had been forgotten.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Quite a fasinating study of the times, human nature, and a horrorific event. The backstory is filled with interesting histories involving post reformation Europe, the age of sail, and the beginnings of the great trading companies of the time. Dash does an excellent job of not embellishing the story. He goes to great lengths to investigate the backgrounds of the key characters involved to determine possible reasons for their motives. A very well researched true story. I would recommend this book Quite a fasinating study of the times, human nature, and a horrorific event. The backstory is filled with interesting histories involving post reformation Europe, the age of sail, and the beginnings of the great trading companies of the time. Dash does an excellent job of not embellishing the story. He goes to great lengths to investigate the backgrounds of the key characters involved to determine possible reasons for their motives. A very well researched true story. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes historical nonfiction.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Evers

    Definitely not for the squeamish. By far one of the best books I've read so far this year, I was completely engrossed by this horrific tale of mutiny from the first page. Dash shows immense skill in not just writing the true story of a select (and *extremely* bloody) incident in history, but simultaneously weaving into the narrative an examination of life in the Dutch Republic in the 17th century. As stated by other reviewers, this is history meant to be read, not consulted, but the obvious depth Definitely not for the squeamish. By far one of the best books I've read so far this year, I was completely engrossed by this horrific tale of mutiny from the first page. Dash shows immense skill in not just writing the true story of a select (and *extremely* bloody) incident in history, but simultaneously weaving into the narrative an examination of life in the Dutch Republic in the 17th century. As stated by other reviewers, this is history meant to be read, not consulted, but the obvious depth of research undertaken is truly impressive.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I love maritime history! Books like this is why. When I start developing feelings for the people, like 'em or hate 'em, the author is doing something right. Great book about a shipwreck and how people react once put in dire straights. Will probably read this one again.

  29. 5 out of 5

    S. D. Howarth

    Very thorough account of the disaster and unbelievable events that followed. Particularly well detailed research on the individuals involved, Dutch society and what happened to the survivors. Well worth the read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Huelo

    Super creepy and interesting.

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