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Great Adventures: the Voyage of the Batavia

ISLANDS OF HORROR The Batavia (above) lies in tatters, as its travellers make their way to some uncharted nearby islands. They could hardly have imagined the wretched fate that awaited them

The year was 1628, and the newly built 1,200-tonne Batavia was the pride of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the flagship of the powerful merchant fleet. In October, she departed the Netherlands on her maiden voyage (see1 on map, below), bound for Batavia in Java (present-day Jakarta, Indonesia). On board was a fortune in silver bullion, two paintings by the Baroque artist Rubens, and 341 passengers and crew. Among them was a garrison of soldiers, being sent to bolster the defences of the remote Dutch outpost.

The ship was under the command of Francisco Pelsaert, a senior VOC merchant. Pelsaert was no professional sailor, however, and the Batavia was skippered by Ariaen Jacobsz. The two men had travelled together before, and there was no love lost between them. En route, Pelsaert reprimanded Jacobsz several times for drinking.

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