"[…] Rutger Fredericx of Groeningen, locksmith, aged about 23 years here on the islands near the Wreck of the perished ship Batavia, has let himself be turned aside from the Way of all human or reasonable Creatures, and through his innate corruptness let himself be used by the godless Epicurean villain, Jeronimus Cornelisz, undermerchant, for the purpose of several murders, which he has committed without any compassion, although they were his own shipmates and brethren - Who, bound through an oath, has killed and helped to kill [people] who have never done wrong to any one, being obedient to tyrants, they sought to kill out of their own wickedness all the people except a few."
The VOC's flagship Batavia (VOC Chamber Amsterdam) was the first of the Dutch ships lost off the west coast of Australia. Being on her maiden voyage, she left from Texel, Holland in 1628 under Francisco Pelsaert - one of the VOC's most experienced merchants - in a fleet of seven ships. Its main cargo consisted of silver coins, but it also carried pre-fabricated sandstone blocks for a portico to be erected as gatehouse in the new city of Batavia and two antiquities belonging to the artist Rubens for sale to an Indian Moghul ruler.
In 1647 an account of the events based on Pelsaert's journals was published in Amsterdam. The story is well known today and one that has left posterity feeling both fascinated and uneasy ever since.
First the ship broke apart drowning 40 people, and then a burgeoning mutiny slowly unfolded during the salvage of cargo. The 250 survivors were transported onto two small reef islands in the Houtman Abrolhos archipelago, after which a party of 47 men, including Commodore Pelsaert, departed in search of water and rescue. Their incredible journey in a longboat through uncharted waters brought them to Batavia. Finally, on returning after 3 months, they found that in their absence 125 men, women and children had been gradually massacred, women raped and cargo looted. A number of ringleaders of these atrocities were put to the gallows and two men were left behind as punishment. On 5th December 1629 the rescue ship Sardam returned to Batavia with the remaining survivors and salvaged cargo of coins and jewels. Only 122 people survived the shipwreck of the Batavia.
The wreck of the Batavia was only discovered 300 hundred years later in 1963 on Morning Reef near Beacon Island. The exact locations of events on land have been difficult to pinpoint and were subject to much controversy. After excavations and extensive archaeological and forensic analyses the most popular version now links graves and artefacts found on Beacon and West Wallabi Islands with the events following the Batavia shipwreck.
The Western Australian Maritime Museum (WAMM) database now holds 6823 Batavia artefact records in its ANCODS collection. Remains of the cargo (including the now assembled portico) and the wreckage have been painstakingly restored and on display in the WAMM's Fremantle Ship Wreck Galleries. The Australian National Maritime Museum also features a Batavia display.