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History of The Batavia

This story was published and distributed keeping the memory of the ship alive, as taken from Bataviawerf * National Centre for Maritime History

The Batavia was originally built in 1628 in Amsterdam by order of the VOC,, the Dutch United East India Company. On the maiden voyage, she sailed farther than the Vasa would have, However under the command of Francisco Pelsaert, she was wrecked on a reef off the Australian westcoast.

This reef is part of the island group called Houtman Abrolhos. The wreckplace of the Batavia lies on present Beacon Island. Of the 341 crew, forty drowned trying to reach a small island, the rest succeeded. The island held no water or food, therefore the commander decided to try and make for Batavia (now called Jakarta) on Java and get help. He left with the ships boat together with some officers. In his absence a mutiny evolved under the command of a company official called Jeronimus Cornelisz. This Jeronimus saw himself as founder of a new kingdom where there would be room only for his followers.

Over a hundred people were slaughtered by him and his accomplices. A group of soldiers under the command of Wiebe Hayes managed to resist attack from this self-styled king on a neighbouring island. When Pelsaert returned he managed to overcome the mutineers with the help of these soldiers. All were tried and most were hanged, some received whiplashes or were keelhauled. Two young mutineers were cast away on mainland Australia and nothing was ever heard from them. A team of archaeologists recently researched Beacon Island and found several skeletons: victims of Jeronimus Cornelis. Efforts are being made to identifie these remains. The shipwreck and subsequent killings became known in the 17th Century as The unlucky voyage of the ship Batavia. This story was published and distributed keeping the memory of the ship alive.

In the 1970s the wreck of the Batavia and many artefacts were salvaged. Partly they are now on exhibition at the Batavia Gallery in Fremantle, West-Australia. Some other parts are at the Geraldton Region Museum. These two museums are presently involved in a heavy quarrel about the legacy of the Batavia. The hit with which the Batavia bumped into Australia on the 4th of June 1629 still lingers on. Otherwise The Netherlands ruled Indonesia during most of the period from the 1600s to 1945.

Indonesia declared its independence in 1945 and fought the Dutch until 1949, when they gave up their control. In 1497 and 1498, the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama sailed around Africa and discovered a sea route from Europe to India. Other Portuguese explorers soon followed. The Portuguese captured Melaka in 1511, built a fort there, and tried to take over the profitable Indonesian trade.

By the end of the 1500s, the English and Dutch began to challenge the Portuguese for control of Indonesias riches. England and the Netherlands each formed an East India Company to trade in the region, the English in 1600 and the Dutch in 1602. The Dutch East India Company (VOC) or "Verenigde Oost Indische Compagnie" founded Batavia (now Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia) as its headquarters. The company formed on the instigation of the then States General, a number of merchants of the provinces of Holland and Zeeland decided to cooperate closely in Eastern Asia where they formerly competed against one another.

The new company developed rapidly and prospered. Profits were enormous, and many investors were drawn to participate in the lucrative sea trade. The VOC was organised into six chambers. These chambers were located in Amsterdam, Middelburg (Zeeland), Rotterdam, Delft, Hoorn and Enkhuizen. Representatives of these chambers formed the Board of the VOC that in accordance with the number of members was named the Gentleman Seventeen. Every year the VOC sent about thirty ships to trade in the East Indies. Many of these ships were built on VOC owned shipyards. Some ships were purposely built for East Indian waters and were designed to make return trips to the then Dutch Republic, these were called "retourschepen" (returnships).

This is why the Batavia is called a "VOC-retourschip". The VOC also built smaller ships like Flutes, Yachts and Galliots. The companys forces largely drove the British and Portuguese out of what later became the Netherlands Indies (now Indonesia). The Batavian Republic lasted 1799-1806 The company also took control of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and colonized the southern tip of Africa. From the mid-1600s to the mid-1800s, the Dutch were the only Westerners allowed to trade with Japan.

As an aside, The Dutch West India Company was founded in 1621 to trade in the New World and western Africa. In 1624, the company colonized New Netherland, which consisted of parts of present-day New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Delaware. In 1626, the colonys governor, Peter Minuit, bought Manhattan Island from the Indians for goods worth about $24. Dutch colonists had established New Amsterdam (now New York City) there the year before.

From 1630 to 1654, the Dutch controlled Brazil. During that time, the Dutch also acquired what are now the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. Meanwhile Dutch rule in Indonesia. In 1677, the ruler of Mataram on Java asked the Dutch to help him fight a rebel uprising. The Dutch did so, and he gave them important trading rights and Javanese territories. In similar ways, or by force, the trade on other Indonesian islands passed into Dutch hands. By the late 1700s, the Dutch East India Company controlled commerce on most of the islands. The region became known as the Dutch East Indies or the Netherlands Indies.

The Dutch East India Company forced the Indonesians to produce certain crops and deliver them at prices set by the company. The company made enormous profits at first. But its costs grew rapidly during the late 1700s, and it went bankrupt. Legislation by the Dutch government in 1798 caused the company to disband the next year. The government took over the companys land.

At first, the Dutch government established effective political control mainly on Java. Beginning in 1830, the Dutch government forced peasants throughout Java and in parts of Sumatra and Sulawesi to grow such export crops as indigo and coffee on much of their land. The Dutch government collected these crops and made large profits from their sale. In 1870, it permitted Dutch investors to lease farmland in the region. In the next 30 years, many privately owned Dutch plantations went into operation, most of them on Sumatra. The Dutch government gradually extended its control throughout the East Indies, partly by conquest and partly through agreements with local rulers. By about 1910, the final extent of the Netherlands Indies had been established.

This scarce Silver Coin pictured above, is a One Sixteenth Gulden, With Circle, in Superb Mint State. Dated 1802. Choice Uncirculated with some Luster and Gorgeous Tone. Features a VOC-retourschip ship, mintage unknown. Four different varieties exist. Catalogs as Sch-495b and KM-77 but its condition is not cataloged.

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Batavia 1628
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