While Pelsaert is ashore, Jacobsz rows from one ship to another, picking fights wherever he goes. Eventually, the drunken Jacobsz is returned to Batavia under close arrest. Pelsaert, livid, threatens once again to place Jacobsz on report - and the resentful Skipper, for his part, begins to hatch a mutinous plot : a plan to seize the ship and its treasure, throw Pelsaert to the sharks, and to take to a life of piracy.
He begins by sailing Batavia away from the other ships. Then one evening a dozen men grab Lucretia in a gangway, strip her naked and obscenely molest her. This is done to provoke Pelsaert into taking disciplinary action, which in turn is to be the signal to mutiny - and the conspirators, mostly Jacobsz’ own crewmen, are sleeping with their weapons at the ready. But before Jacobsz has a chance to seize the ship, Fate reveals a Joker in its hand : A strange wild-card, that will change everything.
In the dim eerie moonlight, 2 hours before dawn, on June 4, 1629, Batavia lurches to a grinding halt, stuck fast on a coral reef, 2 miles from the nearest island. All attempts to refloat her fail, and she soon begins to break up. Hastily Jacobsz and Pelsaert begin ferrying people to the islands, using 2 boats, a skiff designed for 10, and the yawl, a longboat built for 23. Seventy men are left to sink or swim when conditions worsen: about 30 drown. Water is desperately short on the islands, and those in the boats, including Jacobsz, Pelsaert and most of the VOC officers, seize the chance to head for Java. All 49 people aboard miraculously survive, arriving in the city of Batavia on July 7th. Pelsaert is ordered to return immediately to the wreck site in the yacht Sardam, and he sails within the week. The return journey takes 8 weeks, for a round trip of over 3 months.
As he approaches the islands, 2 men run towards him, warning him that a boatload of mutineers even now threatens to seize Sardam. Cannon trained on the approaching boat convince the richly-clad crew to surrender; then, as they are taken into custody, a strange and terrible tale begins to emerge : -
The castaways had run out of water within days, and about 20 had died of thirst. Luckily it had rained, and the Hollanders, water-wiser now, had caught a few weeks’ supply in sailcloth. Hope glimmered . . . and when Jeronimus Cornelisz, last of the abandoned 70, had come ashore 10 days after the wreck, there had been general rejoicing, for he was the one person with the authority to requisition goods, to ration water, and to establish discipline.
Those things he did indeed. Declaring himself Captain General, he had first taken charge of all weapons and water. Next he had sent his only rivals, a group of soldiers commanded by Wiebbe Hayes, on a mission to find water on two large islands. No-one had really expected them to, and Jeronimus had believed himself rid of them forever.
Then the murders had begun.
A few women had been saved “for common service”, to be available on call. Jeronimus had selected the beautiful Lucretia as his own concubine, and he guarded her jealously. Most of the others, along with their children, had been mercilessly despatched, by drowning, bashing or by strangulation. The unwanted men had been stabbed, or hacked to death with adzes. With each death Cornelisz’s new scheme grew more achievable: to seize the hoped-for rescue ship, salvage the treasure, and to live out Jacobsz’s fantasies of piracy on the high seas.
But on one of the larger Islands, Wiebbe Hayes’s soldiers had eventually found one good source of water. Suspecting nothing of the grisly events on Batavia’s Graveyard, they had sent the prearranged smoke signal: a perplexing message to Jeronimus’ mutineers, for though their own water was running low, the continued survival of the soldiers threatened their own success. When one of their intended victims had managed to swim to the soldiers’ island and warn them, Wiebbe Hayes had set about defending their position against attack. Sure enough, the mutineers had attempted several times to take the island, first by treachery, and at last by all-out war. Men on both sides had been killed, and Jeronimus himself captured by the resourceful Wiebbe Hayes. The mutineers, who still had all the guns and swords, had prepared to mount one last desperate assault. Battle had been joined, and the first shots had brought down 4 soldiers. The mutineers had withdrawn off shore to reload before pressing their advantage. It was at that very moment that the yacht Sardam had appeared.
With the mutiny put down, Pelsaert set his divers to the task of salvaging the treasure. He then set up a formal court on Batavia’s Graveyard, employing a form of water torture where necessary to get at the truth. The sentences were passed and executed on Seals Island. Seven men were hanged, with Jeronimus singled out first to have both hands cut off. Two more were left marooned on the Southland, and still others taken to Castle Batavia, where if anything the punishments were even more gruesome.
Jacobsz was imprisoned for a long term for “de-navigating” Batavia, while High Boatswain
Jan Evertsz was hanged for his involvement in the assault on Lucretia van den Mylen. For her part, the woman who had briefly been concubine to Australia’s first dictator still had one sorrow to face: the news that her husband had in the meantime died in Java. She returned to Holland and remarried, and there her record ends. Her home in Holland stands to this day.
Soldier Wiebbe Hayes became a hero. The VOC decorated him and promoted him to Sergeant. Most of the blame for what had happened was laid on Francisco Pelsaert, notwithstanding his super-human efforts to protect VOC interests. He was stripped of his commission, and all his wages and possessions were confiscated. Physically and mentally broken by illness and stress, he died in Sumatra less than a year later, in September 1630.
Of the original 316 aboard Batavia, only 107 men, 7 women and 2 children survived.