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.
Being an Australian I knew something of the Batavia but not the full story. 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. The book had me caught up in the story so much it was like reading about a current disaster in the newspaper.
Sicko was the first person my age I met upon moving to a new town. When my family moved again, this time within the town, Sicko and I lost touch. By this time, Sicko's family had moved to Alaska, leaving him the solitary occupant of their 2400 square foot home. Sicko was a handsome guy, much more handsome than me, and there were young women at the house on various occasions. Then one night I had to rescue one of those young women from Sicko when she called out my name in distress. 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. If you'd like to read more about the actual mutiny itself, the information available on Wikipedia is not contradicted by the book.
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. 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. I would definitely recommend this book to those who are interested in shipwrecks or maritime history.
Batavia sailed under commandeur and upper-merchant Francisco Pelsaert and was captained by Ariaen Jacobsz. 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 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. 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. 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). With his own supply dwindling, Cornelisz decided to take over Hayes island (by killing everyone there, of course).
There's no point telling what the book is about, because the whole thing is too unlikely.
The mutiny was led by a half-crazed charismatic ship's officer with horrendous results.
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. Nonetheless, it's a fascinating and well-told story of the tragedy of the Batavia and its survivors.
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 moments respite from the discomfiture it engenders.
Having written his first three books while still with John Brown Publishing, Dash has been a full-time writer since 2001. 'History doesn't get much more readable.' New York Daily News 'Dash writes with unabashedly cinematic flair, backed by meticulous research.' New York Times 'Dash captures the reader with narrative based on dogged research, more richly evocative of character and place than any fiction, and so well written he is impossible to put down.' The Australian 'An indefatigable researcher with a prodigious descriptive flair.' Sunday Telegraph 'Dash writes the best kind of history: detailed, imaginative storytelling founded on vast knowledge.' Minneapolis Star-Tribune