The Western Mail/24 December 1897/The Abrolhos tragedy

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The Western Mail, 24 December 1897, The Abrolhos tragedy
by Willem Siebenhaar
This is a translation of the 1647 Dutch work Ongeluckige voyagie, van't schip Batavia, which is attributed to Isaac Commelin although it is essentially a third person transliteration of the journal of Francois Pelsaert.— Excerpted from The Abrolhos tragedy on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


Stirring Times in the Seventeenth Century.

Australia’s First White Residents.

The Batavia’s Castaways.

How they Fought and Suffered.

One Hundred and Twenty-five Massacred.

First Complete Translation in English of the Original Dutch Account,
Published Eighteen Years After the Massacre.

The history of the earliest Australian exploration is, on the whole, of a dim, unadventurous sort, strikingly unlike the romantic happenings that followed the discoveries of Columbus in the West. But there are exceptions, and the greatest of them is the tragic story of the ill-fated Dutch ship, Batavia, whose passengers and crew were for four months the first settlers — involuntary, it is true — in Australian territory. The portion of the continent now called Western Australia was the first viewed by Europeans. In the far back ages Chinese junks seem to have found the north of our island-continent only to slowly chop back again to their own coasts with true oriental apathy. A few proas manned by Malays swept down into the Gulf of Carpentaria, and finding the new land unfavourable for head-hunting went home again. The Portuguese, in their great century of colonising and trading enterprise, sought out all the wealthy parts of the East, and between the years 1511 and 1529 some of the exploring vessels were driven onto the coasts of the new land, which proved too uninviting to attract them permanently. This was no rich Mexico or golden Peru, but a continent that seemed to suffer from a chronic oversupply of sand, aggravated by a distressing lack of water, while the natives were too naked to want to trade, and too few to attract the missionary zeal of the Jesuits.

The first expedition that took our continent seriously was one under the charge of Cornelis Houtman, a Dutchman, who had served the Portuguese as an East Indian pilot, till their anxiety to turn him from the error of his ways caused him to pass a very unpleasant season in the Inquisition. Offering to lead an expedition of his countrymen to the Indies, he conducted his ships in the closing years of the sixteenth century to Java and other islands. On one tour he sighted a cluster of rocky islets in Australian waters, and named them after his brother, “Frederick Houtman’s Abrolhos”, the latter term being a contraction of the Portuguese “abri vossos olhos” - “Keep your eyes open”. The history of the islands and of the wrecks on them suggests that their christener put into their name a Cassandra warning. In 1616 came Dirk Hartog, who found the island which still bears his name. Other vessels touched various parts of the northern and western coasts, but nothing very notable happened till the year 1628, when the expedition with which this narrative deals sailed from Holland.

Gradually the Portuguese pre-eminence in the East had been waning, as the loss of national independence through Spanish conquest and the cramping influence of the Inquisition destroyed their motive power. The Dutch, on the other hand, had the activity of a nation newly freed. From Alva’s fires, the pillage of the Spanish troops, and all the horrors of their war of independence, they had risen like a clutch of phoenixes. The blood of the “Sea Beggars”, who had swept Spain from the Channel, was in their veins, and they quickly sought mercantile supremacy. In 1628, when our story opens, they were in the bloom of their power. It was only about twenty years since they had thrown off the yoke of the foreigner, and for over twenty years more they were to hold on unchallenged. Then were to come Cromwell and Blake and English rivalry. To fix the time more exactly the reader may remember that Britain had experienced three years of the rule of Charles I, and, becoming vastly dissatisfied, was on the incline which led to the great civil war.

So, in 1628 the ships sailed from Texel, under Commodore Francis Pelsart. The commodore’s ship was separated from its consorts, and a long and tempestuous voyage, depriving her officers of opportunities to “shoot the sun”, left her wandering in Australian waters without any idea of where she was. It is at this point that the quaint old story, which we publish, commences. It tells of three months of crowded life, full of such experiences as would suffice to provide a complete outfit of nightmares for even a long-lived antediluvian. It would be hard to tell what element of terror was wanting. To be wrecked in unknown seas is a dire calamity, and when the only land is a cluster of barren waterless islands, the situation becomes one of horror. Had that been all, the long boat voyage undertaken by Pelsart — perhaps one of the longest in the history of marine disaster — and the agony of those left behind, with no hope save in the

The Abrolhos Tragedy (Figure 1).jpg

slender chance of the Commodore’s hazardous double voyage being safely accomplished, would have been two subjects round which a deft hand could have woven a thrilling romance. But in this case the survivors of the wreck had, in addition, all the woes of a general massacre followed by piratical and savage warfare waged on them by those who should have proved their allies. The culminating point was the boat race to the vessel bringing succour, the prize of the contestants being life and liberty.


The supposed scene of the wreck of the Batavia is shown in one of our photographic illustrations, and from it the general character of the little archipelago that composes Houtman’s Abrolhos may be judged. The description of these given in the narrative we publish is vague as to details; and probably the accounts of later visitors must form the basis of judgment. The Abrolhos, it may be mentioned, stretch for nearly fifty miles along the coast of Western Australia — a dreaded line of low islands and sharp-toothed coral reefs, among which a vessel fares ill. They fall naturally into three groups — the Wallabi and then the Pelsarto group in the south; a group in the north, then the Eastern group. As Mr. Saville-Kent shows in his recent work “The Naturalist in Australia”, these islands give a unique opportunity for scientific research. “At some future date”, he says, “these reefs will constitute one of the happiest and most productive hunting grounds and fields for biological investigation to the associated students of and graduates in Natural Science”.

The Pelsart group is about twelve miles long and seven broad, and lies some thirty-five miles from the mainland, being separated from the Easter group by the Zeewyk Channel, which is so wide that with a good glass on a fine day the nearest islands of the two groups are barely within sight of each other. They are accordingly so detached that the shipwrecked crew of the Batavia when wrecked upon them naturally kept to their first position, and did not transfer themselves northwards to any larger island. There are some twenty islands in the Pelsart or southern group, all of coral formation, and many coral reefs. They form a rude triangle of which the apex points south. The western side is a long reef over which the great ocean rollers constantly break in a heavy surf on the east lies the largest island of the group, now named Pelsart Island, but formerly termed Batavia’s Churchyard; and between the reef and the island and to the north lie the balance of smaller islands and reefs. Near the centre of this group is Middle Island, about a square mile in extent, and probably identical with the High Island mentioned in the journal. It reaches twenty or twenty-five feet above the sea level, while the others are only about half that height. A little more than a mile from Middle Island is Square Island, some three acres in extent It is supposed that much of the fighting took place on those two islands. On Square Island are two pits which may have been dug as rifle pits to resist an invading force. The Abrolhos have been the scene of many wrecks. In the century following 1639 the Dutch East India Company had to mourn the loss of the following vessels there: The Batavia in 1629, the Verfulde Draeck in 1656, the Ridderschap van Holland in 1693, the Zuysdorp in 1711, the Zeewyk in 1726. The last resembled the Batavia wreck in so much as the vessel was totally destroyed, and the crew had to build a boat from the wreckage in which to go north to the Straits. At the present day the islands are known as the centre of the guano industry, which is in the hands of Messrs. Broadhurst and McNeil. Mr. C. E. Broadhurst leased Houtman’s Abrolhos in 1883, three years later associating his son, Mr. F. C. Broadhurst, with him, and shortly afterwards handing over to him the entire control of the business. The output up to date has been about 52,000 tons. Houses have been built on the larger islands, Rat, Pelsart, and Gun Islands, with quarters and laboratories. Jetties and tramways have been constructed, and the group has undergone a marked transformation since its islands were untenanted, except by the sea-fowl, who seem to go to the Abrolhos from far and near as their breeding-ground. The noddy terns are specially numerous. Hair seals were visitors to the islands till the arrival of regular inhabitants scared them away. There are many rabbits on Pelsart Island. They were introduced in the fifties of the present century by Captain Thomas, of the Murray district. Fish abound, a great part of the Geraldton supply being captured here. It is somewhat strange that in the narrative of the “Batavia” no mention is made of sea-fowl or fish.

These islands have an additional attraction for those who long to discover hidden treasures. Many years after Pelsart’s time the Dutch East Indian Company anxiously instructed its traders to keep a look out for a treasure of six or eight thousand rix dollars that had not been recovered when he left the archipelago. The absence of fresh water, which sent Pelsart off on his long boat journey and gave Cornelius his opportunity to mutiny, is still a feature of the Islands. A small supply is procurable by sinking, but it cannot stand a heavy drain upon it, and Messrs. Broadhurst and McNeil import the water they require from Geraldton.


The book from which our narrative is taken is the original Dutch publication dated 1647 — only eighteen years after the occurrence it records. Printed with heavy, old-fashioned type, and lines close together, bound in yellow parchment, it is in its durability and excellent preservation, a testimonial for the compositors who set up the type and the printers who put it through the press, if they had not ceased fretting over such things centuries ago. The author, with a modesty scarcely to be expected, conceals his identity, so that no one knows to whom we should return thanks for this earliest of Australian books — for though its heroes and villains are Dutch and Frenchmen, and its publisher honest Jan Jansz, of Amsterdam, the whole deals with — Australia and Australian settlement, and gives us a glimpse of aborigines similar to those who still inhabit our colony. His style varies so much that we must regard him as, to a great extent, a compiler. The description of the wreck is, for vividness, worthy of Defoe, and other parts, for terse force, recall the same author. But great patches are a mere copy of a mariner’s log. Yet even in the most monotonous of its leaves this old book has quaint gleams that are both interesting and amusing.

The author keeps right on with a stolid persistency worthy of his race. He shows equal care in chronicling the day when seaweed was sighted, and the exact stage at which the fortitude of the wicked Cornelius gave way to the torture - “some water already poured into his mouth”. Nothing surprises him except, perhaps, the mutineers’ “bold pride and arrogance” that made them “not hesitate to lay hands on the company’s precious materials” and cover their clothes with gold lace. This seems to have struck him as a far worse crime than the cumulative breaches of all the commandments that astonishes the present-day reader. But on the whole he is economical of condemnation, and resembles rather the laconic historian of the Hundred Year war, who found nothing stronger to say of the frightful struggle that depopulated half France than “It was a pity”. The man of the first quarter of the seventeenth century seems to have kept his vituperative adjectives for theological discussion. Our author accordingly waxes exceeding wroth in denunciation of Cornelius’s “abominable creed”, including its denial of the existence of the Devil and hell. The scoundrels, themselves, show an equally theological tendency, and their worse of deeds, the partition of the unhappy women was duly-chronicled in a resolution by which they “bind themselves on their soul’s salvation, and by the help of God to be true to each other”, while in another document they consign the man who proves false to be “the Devil’s own”, a title which they seem to have deserved in any case.

Cornelius, the villain of the tragedy, is painted as black as Iago. There are no redeeming gleams about him, except perhaps his confession that he had lied “because he longed to see his wife once more”. Yet this accords ill with his conduct towards the women who fell into his power, and belongs, probably, to the “glib tongue” to which the historian refers somewhat complainingly. The repeated confessions extracted from him under torture have a peculiar interest, and the sage admonitions to tell the truth addressed to a wretch who, one suspects, was ready to confess anything rather than undergo further torture have a humorous aspect of their own.

The volume from which our translation is made was in 1893 purchased at a second book-shop in London by Mr. F. C. Broadhurst. It was in all respects a lucky find, for besides being rare and in good preservation, it related to a subject of which Mr. Broadhurst had made a study. To him we take this opportunity of tendering our thanks for his permission to use the volume and reproduce the original copper-plate illustrations. After his return to Western Australia, Mr. Broadhurst lent the volume to Mr. W. Siebenhaar, a Dutch gentleman, belonging to the Registrar-General’s Department, who made the excellent translation which we use.

Apparently no English translation has been made of this work prior to that which we now publish. Mr. Battye, librarian of the Victoria Public Library, Perth, has obligingly looked up the bibliography of the subject. This appears to be the earliest edition of Pelsart’s voyage. A translation was made in French in 1663 for the “Recueil de Divers Voyages Curieux”, by Thevenot. On this, which is very much abridged, all the subsequent English translations even more condensed have been based. They are to be found in Harris’s “Collection of Voyages”, Callander’s “Terra Australis Cognita”, and Major’s “Early Voyages to Terra Australis” (Hakluyt Soc.). Other French translations have been made, but they are little more than reprints of that by Thevenot. The story has been used by Mr. W. J. Gordon as the basis of a novel entitled The “Captain-General”, but still awaits the coming of someone who will put permanent life into its dry bones. If there is any ambitious Australian poet who desires to emulate, say Browning's “Ring and the Book”, he may find in these records something that will afford more scope than the old parchment-bound tale of Roman murder and the trial of Count Guido, on which that great poem was reared.

The title page bears a characteristically lengthy inscription redolent of times when the title rendered a table of contents unnecessary. The following is the interpretation.—





Stranded on the Abrolhos of Frederick Houtman, at Latitude of 28 1/2 degrees South of the Equinoctial Line. Sailed under the Worthy Francoys Persert


The Wreck of the Vessel, as well as the Horrible Murders among the Rescued Crew and Passengers on the Island “Bataviaes Kerck Hof” (Batavia’s Church-yard), also, the Punishment of the Criminals Occurred in the Years 1628 and 1629.


A Happily Ended Disaster which Befel the Servants of the East India Company in the Year 1636, at the Royal Court of Siam, in the Town of Judia, Under the Command of the Worthy Jeremias Van Vliet.


The Acts of Extreme Tyranny of Abas, King of Persia, in the Year 1645, to the Highest Dignitaries of his Empire, at his Royal Court of Ispahan.

All Compiled by a Dilettanta from Various Writings, and Published as a Warning to all Persons Sailing Thither. Illustrated with Several Fine Copper Plates.


Jan Jansz, Anno 1647.

As the reader will see, the volume deals with three subjects, of which the “Journal” is the first. The spelling of the names is somewhat erratic, that of the Commodore being “Pelsert” here and “Pelsaert” elsewhere. We give a fac-simile of the sub-title regarding the Batavia’s voyage and wreck, and a translation of the whole. It contains the shipwreck; the massacre of 125 of the party, including women and children: the treatment of the women captured and kept alive by the mutineers; page 3

the inhuman conduct of the principal conspirators; the heroic and successful resistance of the few faithful men fighting for life and honour almost without the smallest hope of success; the long boat voyage of the Commodore’s party hurrying to Batavia for rescue for the men they knew were in peril, and, perhaps, at the point of death on the barren islands behind them; the return just in time, and the triumphant vindication of justice; all form a series of pictures among the most picturesque and thrilling in the early history of Australia.

October, 1628









Captain on the Ship Batavia, which Sailed

from Texel on the 28th of October, 1628.

The fact that in June, 1628, General Pieter Carpentier came home safely from the East Indies with five richly-laden merchant-men, and that the Government succeeded in releasing three of their ships from the embargo under which they had been placed by the English the year before, when returning from Suratta under the command of Jan Karsbensz, of Emden, tended not a little to encourage enterprise and to occasion fresh equipments. In consequence of this the said Government resolved to send another fleet of 11 ships hither, with which General Jacob Specks was to sail. On these ships embarked also a man of wide experience, the mathematician Johan Walbeck, who was anxious to study closely the nature and condition of eastern countries. The Senate of Amsterdam, having in good time two ships and a yacht ready to sail, sent those to Texel in order to lose no time. The names of these vessels were Batavia, under the command of the worthy Francoys Pelsert, of Antwerp; Dordrecht, having for her merchant-captain the collector of revenue, Isaac van Swaenswyck, of Leyden; and the yacht Assendelft, under the command of the second merchant-captain, Cornelis Vlack, of Amsterdam. These being ready to sail, and the wind having become favourable, left Texel for the open on the 28th of October.

How they continued their journey, how they separated by storm or other incidents, how nothing but the ordinary events of daily nautical routine took place, which is unnecessary to mention and publish in print, since so many similar printed accounts of voyages have repeated this ad nauseam for every reader — all this we pass, in order to emphasize only that which is memorable.


The ship Batavia continued on her course alone, and her voyage had now lasted to June 4, 1629, being Whit Monday. She had reached the southern latitude of 28-28½ degrees, about nine miles from the [1]Southland. There they got among the perilous banks of the Abrolhos, called by the Dutch the “Frederick Horstmann’s Cliffs”. The [2]commander Francois Pelsaert was unwell and kept his cabin, as it was clear moonlight and fine weather; two hours before sunrise, and the skipper’s watch. Suddenly he felt the ship shaking terribly, the rudder touching ground and the keel running against the cliffs, so that he tumbled out of his berth. Running on deck immediately he found all the sails hoisted, the course N.E. by north, a south-westerley wind having blown all night. The ship was surrounded by a thick foam, but no great breakers. This, however, changed soon since all at once they heard the sea breaking upon them amain. Then the Commodore spoke very sharply to the Skipper, and accused him of having brought them into this danger of life by his reckless negligence. The Skipper answered that it was not his negligence, that he had not slept, but that he had been awake and carefully watched everything. Seeing the surf in the distance, he had asked Hanade Bosschieter, who was on the watch with him, what “that white” could be. The latter had answered that it was the reflection of the moon, and with this they had contented themselves. The Commodore then asked what could be done and whereabouts they were. “God only knows” said the Skipper “this is an unknown dry bank, which must be a good distance from the mainland. I think we are on a shallow and perhaps it is low tide, let us drop an anchor astern possibly we may get off yet”.

When the Commodore asked what depth of water they were in, the reply was that

* Austr. † Commodore.

they did not know. So he sent for the lead line, which was in the steerman’s charge, and found that there were but 17ft. or 18ft. of water astern, and far less forward. Therefore, they had to accept the Skipper’s surmise that they had got on an unknown shallow in the sea, and they consequently resolved to lighten the vessel by throwing the heavy guns overboard, and to put out to sea with the boats, in hopes that the ship might float again. Meanwhile they had sounded round the ship and found seven fathoms of water astern for a distance of about a bow shot; but forward it was all shallow, so that they prepared a small anchor to be thrown out astern. Meanwhile rain set in, with a strong wind, so that the boat was washed overboard with a heavy sea. She drifted away, and they were obliged to send the sloop after her to be able to row her back. Before they were on board again it was day. They then found themselves surrounded by cliffs and shallows. The rapid fall of the water caused the ship to bump violently and to lurch, so that they could no longer retain

The Abrolhos Tragedy (Figure 2).jpg

foothold on the deck. It was evident that they had run on these shallows during the tide. They resolved to bring down the mainmast, trusting that the other mast would not cause so much danger every time the ship struck on the rocks. When they had done this, they found that they had made a great mistake, for they could not get rid of it overboard, and it caused them a great deal of trouble when they tried to bring the boat on board, on account of the violent breakers. Nowhere could they see any land that did not look as if the high tide was sure to cover it, except one island about three miles away from the ship. The Skipper was, therefore, sent off to two little islets not far from the ship to see whether it would be possible to deposit there safely the people and some of the goods. Coming back about 9 o’clock, he reported that apparently those would not be flooded, but that the rocks and cliffs made them difficult and dangerous of approach, since on one side the sloop could not land on account of the shallows, while on the other

The Abrolhos Tragedy (Figure 3).jpg The Abrolhos Tragedy (Figure 4).jpg

side there were several fathoms of water.

of the

Nevertheless, it was resolved, because of the wailing and weeping of the women, the sick and the children, and because of the dejected state of the less courageous ones, to land the people there first, and, meanwhile, to bring on deck the money and the most precious goods. To this end the chief officers tried their utmost; but the wrath of the Lord seemed to be upon their heads, for, in spite of all the efforts and endeavours to cant the vessel to leeward, the uneven and steep cliffs on which she rested would make her lean over to the other side, so that the people could only be got off very slowly. At 10 o’clock the ship burst asunder and they had to bring up some bread from the storeroom in great haste. They had great hopes of getting water on the shore; but everything — heaven and earth themselves — seemed to be against them. Their zeal was made useless by the godless, lawless gang of soldiers and sailors, who could not be kept out of the hold on account of the drink, so that they could not succeed in bringing anything up in safety, and the entire hold became flooded. They scarcely filled one

cask and a half, which lay ready on the deck, with buckets and jugs. The whole day passed in this manner, and they had only made three trips with the people, in which 180 souls, 20 casks containing bread, and a few barrels of water had been saved.

When the Skipper had taken ashore some people and a casket of jewels, and had returned on board with the sloop after sunset, he declared to the Commodore that it was no use their taking water and bread on shore, since it was all devoured in the most lawless and ravenous manner, and everyone drank as much as he liked, his own orders had no force or effect, unless more stringent measures were taken. Thereupon the Commodore himself jumped into the sloop and went ashore, intending to return as soon as possible, having decided to bring the money ashore in the next journey. The great number of people and the scarcity of the water made it necessary to fix rations, for there was no appearance of the possibility of getting more water soon, and they would be obliged to make it stretch as long as possible if they wished to save their lives. No sooner, however, had he left the ship than a strong wind began to blow, so that it was out of the question to get to the ship again; in fact they found it hard enough to get ashore, being in great danger of being swamped by the sea or carried away by the current. So that against their will they were compelled to stay on the land that night.


On the 5th they put some of the people, with some bread and water, ashore on the largest island, so that till further orders they were divided into two parties. The Commodore with the sloop and the Skipper with the boat returned to the ship, and with much labour, difficulty and hard rowing the sloop reached her only in the afternoon; but those in the boat were less fortunate, for the high seas prevented their completing the journey by rowing, and still more when they hoisted a sail to tack, principally through the want of sweeps,

and they were compelled to return to the island.

Though the Commodore was close to the ship yet the breakers prevented their boarding her, in spite of all their trouble and the dangers they faced, for the seas ran even over the poop, so for a long time they beat about, hoping that a favourable opportunity would at last offer. But everything was in vain. At last a carpenter of Amsterdam, named Jan Egbersz, was bold enough to swim through the surf from the ship to the sloop. He begged that they should come to the rescue of the supercargo captain, Jeronymus Cornelisz (who was in the ship with seventy men) in order to save them, since their lives were no longer safe in the ship. It may be easily inferred from this of what mind they were in, both parties, on one side, with the wish to help, on the other with the anxious desire to be rescued. As it seemed impossible to effect this, the Commodore asked for five or six planks from the ship, if it was possible to throw them overboard, so that they might fish them up and make sweeps for the boat out of them. Further he advised them to make a couple of rafts to take refuge on in case of need. Finally he sent word to the effect that he, the Commodore, would certainly take the first opportunity of reaching the ship with the sloop and the boat, in order to get the money and bring it safely ashore. With these messages, the said carpenter, Jan Egbertsz, swam to the ship again; When he had arrived there safely they immediately threw out six planks, which were secured by those in the sloop. The latter were then obliged, to their sorrow and regret, to return to the island. When they reached the land, they found the carpenter busy making a sweep out of a piece of a boom that had floated ashore. In the afternoon it began to blow and storm, very hard from the north-west, so that the ship was so entirely buried by waves that they could often not see her and that it seemed more than a miracle that she kept together. Those on the shore calculated in the evening how much more there was of the fresh water that they had saved in small casks, and found that on the smallest island, where with the boat and the sloop they counted 40 people, there were 80 cans of water, and on the larger island for 180 people there were still less. Therefore it was an anxious prospect, and those of the crew began to mutter, asking why they should not go and look for fresh water on the islands or thereabouts, since they could not remain without very long or they would die of thirst together. The Skipper mentioned this to the Commodore, also that unless an order of this kind was given, there was a danger of mutiny and of the mutineers leaving with the boat. The Commodore, however, did not yet see his way clear to consent to this, and he proposed that they should await the event of the weather and what would become of the ship, for they would have to answer before God, the authorities, and the Government in Batavia for leaving all these people and the rich possessions of the company thus lightly without any further attempt to save them. Many protested against this decision, and those who were willing to search for water on the islands or on the southern mainland, promised that as soon as they should find fresh water anywhere, they would return, in order to provide the others with as much water as should be found necessary. Finally, after having weighed and discussed everything, the Commodore was persuaded after much begging and praying to resolve (as will be seen from the resolution hereafter) that they should steer with the boat for the islands or the mainland to look for water, so that they might not perish of thirst; that if they found none, they should continue their voyage by the grace of God, till they reached Batavia, in order to inform the General of their sad and unheard-of calamities, and at the same time to ask for help to rescue the remaining people. One consideration was that there was no hope of getting more water out of the ship unless she should burst open and the casks should float ashore and be secured. It was true it might rain for many days, and much water might thus be collected for their use, but all this was very uncertain, and not to be depended upon.

Before carrying out the resolution just made, the Commodore asked the Skipper to order some of the crew to go with him in the sloop to the other islet, in order to acquaint the people there with the preceding resolution. He was dissuaded from doing this, because they feared that they might keep the Commodore there, and he might have occasion to regret it, and also because none of the men were very much inclined to start out with him. But he persisted in his intention stating that if they would not consent to his going to the other island, he would tell the people of their intentions not to go out and find fresh water for the whole number. He was ready to die with the people honourably, and not to leave the company’s ship and goods. Then they consented. He obtained a boatswain’s mate and six men at his service, who were ready to take him in the sloop to the island, though on condition that if he should be retained there they should be allowed to leave with the sloop and go on. This being agreed they started, the Commodore taking with him a cask of water for those on the other island; but when they came near the shore the boatswain and his men refused to land, saying, “They will keep you and us there; we don’t wish to go nearer; if you have anything to say to them you can call out; we are not going to run any risk for your sake”. The Commodore was very indignant at this slight, and wanted to jump overboard in order to swim ashore. But the boatswain pulled him back and held him, telling his crew to row back. Those on the island saw all this with great regret The Commodore thus being hindered in carrying out his kind intentions recommended his unfortunate brethren to God’s care, and much against his wish, returned in the evening.

In this sad state of affairs, the Commodore at last resolved to go and look for fresh water on the islands. Therefore, on the 6th of June, in the morning, he wrote on a leaf of a book of tablets:

“That he and the others thereby named were going out with the boat to find fresh water on the neighbouring islands or the mainland in the south, promising to make haste and return to their friends as soon as possible”.

They Go

This document he placed under one of the bread barrels, which they left on the shore. Then he sailed with the boat, and for three days searched two islands for fresh water. On the cliffs of the larger one they found some in the small hollows, left by the rain; but the washing ashore of the sea had spoilt most of it, making it salt, so that it was not good to drink and, therefore, useless.

On the 7th they stopped with the boat at the largest island in order to get her into better repair. For it was plain that they would not find any fresh water on the islands; they had already dug a good many holes in vain, so that they would be obliged to seek the mainland to the south, which they durst not try in a boat that was not well founded, fearing that they would not be able to withstand the sea. Against the evening they saw the sloop rowing towards them, which they had left about the ship. Gillis Fransz, second mate, was in her with ten men, gone out to find fresh water also. Seeing that their efforts in this direction were vain, and that those in the boat were inclined to sail for the mainland, south, they asked to be allowed to go thither also in the sloop. This was accorded, partly because their number would increase the chance of finding water, and also because if the weather was rough, they would thus get the water more easily across the breakers, but they were inclined to let the sloop return to the people on the islands and on the wreck.

The 8th, when the boat was in good trim and everything ready in order to sail in the morning from the islands to the mainland, the Commodore read out to the crew the following resolution, drawn up beforehand, to which all consented with a solemn oath.


“Since, on all the islands and cliffs round about our foundered ship “Batavia”, there is no freshwater to be found, in order to feed and keep the people who are saved, therefore the Commodore has earnestly requested and proposed that an expedition should be made to the main southland to see whether it is God’s gracious will that fresh water shall be found, of which so much may be taken to the people that they shall be certain of having enough provision for a considerable time; that then, meanwhile, someone shall be told off to go to Batavia, in order to let the Lord-General and his councillors know of our disaster and to ask him for early assistance. To which we the undersigned have all voluntarily consented, since necessity forces us thereto, and since, if we acted otherwise, we could not answer for our conduct before God and the high authorities. Therefore, we have unanimously agreed and resolved to try our utmost and do our duty and to assist our poor brethren in their great need. In certain

knowledge of the truth we have signed this with our own hand, and have page 4

all of us sworn to it on the 8th of June, 1629”, was signed—

Francois Pelsaert
Claes Gerritsz
Jacob Jansz Holoogh
Claes Jansz Dor
Adrien Jacobsz
Hans Jacobsz Binder
Jan Evertsz
Claes Willemsz Graeft
Michael Claesz

Sail For

Thereupon they commenced their voyage in the name of the Lord, and sailed into the open. In the afternoon they were in latitude 28 deg. 13 min. and shortly afterwards sighted the mainland, probably-about six miles north by west of their foundered ship, the wind blowing from the west. They were there in about 28 or 30 fathoms of water, wherefore in the evening they turned away from the land, but went near it again about midnight.

On the morning of the 9th they were still about three miles from the shore, the wind, with some rain, being mostly north-west. They guessed that during these 24 hours they had made from four to five miles in a northwesterly direction. The shore in these parts stretches mostly north-west and south-east; a bare and rocky coast, without trees, about as high as at Dover, in England. They saw an inlet and some low, sandy dunes, which they thought they could approach; but, coming close, they found that near the beach the breakers were very rough and that the sea rolled high on the land, so that they could not very well risk the landing; since the wind rose more and more.

In Peril

On the 10th they had to move about for a period of 24 hours on account of the strong wind and storm, which blew harder and harder from the nor-west, so that they were obliged to let go the sloop, which they had taken with them, and even to throw overboard some of their bread and other things that were in the way, as they could not otherwise bale out the water. In the night they were still in greater danger of sinking on account of the strong wind and the high seas. They had no means of keeping off the shore. They could carry no sail. They were at the mercy of the sea. That night a steady rain poured down, and they hoped that the people on the islands might also have some of it, and provide themselves with water.

On the 11th, it became calmer, and the wind turned to the west-southwest. They therefore turned northward, but the sea was just as rough and high.

On the 12th, at noon, the weather steadied down and cleared up. They were then at a latitude of 27 deg. They kept close to the shore, the wind being south-east, but they had no opportunity of nearing the land with the boat, for the breakers were too strong and the coast too steep and jagged, without any foreland or inlet, as is usually found on other coasts, so that it seemed to them, a bare and cursed country, devoid of green or grass.

On the 13th, at noon, they were at a latitude of 25 deg. 10 min. They found then that they had drifted north a good deal, and had doubled the cape, keeping mostly northward during these 24 hours, as the coast now stretched north-north-east and south-south-west. The rocks were of redstone, a good deal battered and broken. There was no foreland. These rocks were all along of very much the same height, and made landing impossible on account of the breakers and high seas.

On the 14th, in the morning, there was a gentle breeze, but during the day a calm set in. At noon they were in latitude 24 degs., keeping north with an east wind. The current still took them every day much round the north, greatly against their wish, for with but little sail they were close to the shore.

They See
Smoke on
the Shore

In the afternoon, seeing inland some smoke, they rowed thither, hoping to find an opportunity of landing. They were quite rejoiced, for they imagined that where there were people there would also be fresh water. Having reached the shore, they found the ground to be a steep and rough incline: stony and rocky, against which the breakers beat violently, so that they saw no means of landing. It made them very dejected, for they feared that they would have to depart without landing. At last six men, trusting themselves to their swimming powers jumped overboard, and reached the shore with great difficulty and peril, while the boat remained at anchor outside the breakers in 25 fathoms of water. The swimmers having reached the shore, looked the whole day for fresh water everywhere, till in the evening they became convinced that their search was vain.

They Find

They then happened upon four people, who were creeping towards them on their hands and feet. When one man, coming out of a hollow upon a height, suddenly approached them they leaped to their feet and fled full speed, which was

distinctly observed by those in the boat. They were black savages, quite naked, leaving themselves uncovered like animals.

No Fresh

As those on the shore had spent the whole day without finding water, they swam aboard again towards evening being all a good deal hurt and bruised, since the breakers had dashed them roughly against the rocks. Then getting ready and lifting the grappling iron they started in search of a

better opportunity, sailing along the coast all night with but little sail, and keeping outside the breakers.

On the morning of the 15th, they came to a point where a large reef extended at about a mile from the coast, and, so it seemed, another reef along the shore, so that they tried their best to steer between

The Abrolhos Tragedy (Figure 6).jpg

the two, for the water there appeared to be calm and smooth. But they did not find an entrance until the afternoon, when they saw an opening where there were no breakers. But it was very dangerous, very stony, and often not holding two feet of water. The shore here had a foreland of dunes about a mile broad, before the higher land was reached.

At Last
They Find

When they had gone ashore they commenced to dig holes in the said foreland, but found nothing except salt water. Some of them therefore went higher up and fortunately found some small hollows in a cliff, full of fresh water that the rain had left there. They quenched their great thirst greedily, for they had almost succumbed. Since they had left the ship they had been without wine or other drink, except a daily allowance of one or two cups of water. They also collected a fair provision, about 80 cans of water, remaining there the whole night. It seemed that the blacks had been there just before, for they found the bones of crabs and the ashes of the fire.

On the 16th, as soon as it was light, they resolved to go further inland, hoping to find more such hollows with fresh water in the mountains. But their search was vain, for they found that there had not been any rain in the mountains for a long time; nor was there any appearance of running water, for behind the mountain chain

The Abrolhos Tragedy (Figure 5).jpg

the country was flat again; bearing neither trees nor vegetation, nor grass, and being everywhere covered with high ant hills built of earth, which in the distance were not unlike Indian huts.

Great Ant
Hills and
of Flies

There were also such multitudes of flies that one could not keep them out of one’s mouth and eyes. They next saw eight black people, each carrying a stick in his hand. These approached them to a musket-shot’s distance, but when they saw our people coming towards them they took to their heels, and would neither speak nor stop.

Jacob Kem-

Seeing that there was no chance of obtaining more water they resolved towards noon to leave and, setting sail, they passed through another opening of the aforesaid reef a little more to the north. They were then in latitude 22 degrees 17 minutes, and imagined they were approaching the river of Jacob Kemmessensz, but the wind ran to the north-east and they

could not keep to the shore. They were obliged to resolve on trying to continue their voyage to Batavia as soon as possible, with God’s help, in order to inform the worthy Governor and his councillors of their disaster, and to ask them for immediate assistance to rescue those who were left behind. For already they had sailed away from their ship and people more than 100 miles, without finding enough water to assist the others, and just obtaining sufficient to keep themselves on a ration of about two cupfuls daily.

They Sail

On the 17th the sky was clouded, so that they could not take their bearings at noon; but with a north-west by north topsail breeze and dry weather they ran safely north-east for about 15 miles.

On the 18th they could again not take their bearings at noon, but guessed that during those 24 hours they sailed about 10 miles with a west-north-west wind, having rough weather with rain and wind, the latter running to the north-east slightly north at noon. They then steered west. This rough, rainy weather continued on the 19th, and again they could not take their bearings. But they guessed that with a north-west by west wind they had come about seven miles north-north-east.

On the 20th, at noon, they found themselves in latitude 19 deg. 22 min, and calculated that during the last 24 hours they had made about 22 miles north, the wind being west-south-west, with a shaky top-sail breeze and sometimes rain.

On the 21st they were once more unable to take their bearings at noon, they guessed that they had made about 23 miles north, while the wind changed from the south-west to the south-east; the breeze subsided now and then into a calm.

On the 22nd at noon they were in latitude 15 deg. 10 min. at which they were not a little astonished, as they could not make out how they had gained so much latitude; but it appeared that the storm had driven them rapidly north. During these 24 hours they sailed north about a distance of 24 miles, the wind being mostly south-east with a shaky top-sail breeze.

On the 23rd they were unable to take bearings. They guessed that they had sailed north-west about 16 miles. That day the wind ran to and fro, from east to west, the weather being variable and rainy and frequently calm. In the evening the wind became south-south-east with a breeze.

On the 24th the weather was dry, a topsail breeze blowing from the south-east by south. At noon they were in latitude 13 deg. 30 min., and had during those 24 hours made 25 miles north by west.

On the 25th they had a south-east wind, dry weather and a topsail breeze. At noon they were in latitude 11 deg. 30 min. and had made 31 miles north by west. That day they saw floating on the water much rockweed.

On the 26th, they had reached 9 deg. 36 min., having sailed about 24 miles north by west, with a south-easterly wind and dry weather.

Sight the
Coast of

On the 27th the wind was south-east, a topsail breeze and rainy weather, so that they could take no bearings. In the afternoon they sighed the coast of Java being then as they guessed ih latitude 8 deg. and four to five miles away from the shore. They, therefore, took their course west-north-

west along the coast, till in the evening they saw a cape in front of them, off which lay an islet covered with trees. They sailed past this cape in the dark, finding that a reef extended away from it, and that behind it there was deep inlet. Into this inlet they sailed north-north-west, and dropped anchor in eight fathoms of water on a hard ground. There they remained all that night.

Having weighed the anchor on the morning of the 28th, they rowed ashore to find fresh water, as they were very much exhausted by thirst. On the shore they found to their great delight a running streamlet, and, thanking God for his mercy, they quenched their great thirst. Having filled their casks with water, they sailed again at noon, continuing their journey to Batavia.

On the 29th, at midnight, in the second quarter of the moon, they saw an island ahead, which they passed on the starboard side. At daybreak they had reached the western inlet; thence the course lies west-north-west, though one loses sight of the shore on account of the curve, for before one reaches the Trouvens Islands one meets the coast again. At noon they were in latitude 6 deg. 48 min. That day they had made about 30 miles, mostly west-north-west. About the middle of the afternoon they sailed between the two Trouvens Islands, on the most westerly of which there are a good many coconut palms. In the evening they were still a mile away from the southern corner of Java, and at the third hour-glass of the second watch they began to approach the Straits which separate Java from the Prince’s Islands.

On the morning of the 30th, being close to the aforesaid Prince’s Islands, they were becalmed and that day they only made two miles; but towards evening a slight breeze came up from the land.

On the 1st of July the weather was calm in the morning, and at noon they were still about three miles from the Island of Dwars-inde-wegh (“Right-in-the-way”). The wind was changeable, and towards evening it began to blow more from the north-west, so that they could pass the said Island Dwars-inde-wegh. In the evening it was quite calm again and the whole night through they had to row.

On the 2nd, arriving in the morning at the island called “Toppers-hat”, they had to drop the anchor till eleven o’clock on account of the calm, waiting for the sea-breeze. But no wind came, and that whole day they had to row again, making only two miles before that evening.

They See
a Sail

In the setting sun they saw, about the Island Dwars-inde-wegh, a sail astern, wherefore they ran under the shore dropping the anchor in order to wait for her.

Having weighed anchor before day break on the morning of the 3rd, they made for the strange ship in order to ask for some guns to use in their defence, as they did not know whether it was war or peace between the Dutch and the Javanese; but when they came nearer they saw three ships, the nearest being the yacht Sardam, which took the Commodore Francois Pelsaert on board. From the merchant-captain, Van Dommelen, he learnt that the largest vessel was named Frederick Hendrick, and had on board the member of the Privy Council for India, Mr. Raemburgh. He sailed thither, and coming on board gave this dignitary, with a sad heart, the account of their great calamity. He was treated with the greatest kindness, and advised to remain on the ship till she reached Batavia. The other vessels were the Bromvershaven and the Wesop under the command of Captain Grijp, who had sailed from Surat in the company of the worthy Pieter Van den Broeck, but had been parted from the others when at sea.

On the 4th the vessel Bommel, coming from Surat sailed up to them, bringing word that some more vessels had been sighted by her crew outside the straits, but that they could not tell whether they were English or Dutch.

They Arrive
in the
Harbour of

On the 5th, at the fall of darkness, they arrived in the harbour of Batavia, not knowing how they might sufficiently thank God the Lord for His mercy.


I have not yet at present a daily account of the events that took place about the ship and among the people who reached the islands while the Commodore had left for Batavia to seek assistance. The following meagre narrative and account of judicial proceedings and confessions are all that has come to hand so far. They contain, however, the principal horrors and murders that occurred and also the justice done to the perpetrators. Still the want of a continuous record has prevented my polishing this story in such good order as I had wished. I would, therefore, request anyone who should be in possession of further information or notes to place them in the hands of the printer, so that they may be added to a second edition.

For the same reason, I trust that the deficiencies of this my work will be excused. With this I bid the reader farewell, recommending him to read all with judgment and discrimination.


The super-cargo, Jerome (Jeromius) Cornelisz, a chemist of Haarlem, together with some of his men, as David Seevangh, an assistant, Gijsbert van Welderen, Coenraedt van Huyssen, and other accomplices, had formed the intention to float the ship off if she had not come to grief. This supercargo and some of the crew remained on the wreck ten days after the ship had been reduced to this condition, until at last she was almost entirely broken to pieces. He did not know how to get ashore. For another two days he found refuge in the bow-sprit. Then he succeeded at last in floating ashore on a spar. Together with him there floated ashore a cask of fresh water, a cask of wine, and a cask of vinegar. Meanwhile Weobbye Hays, who had been sent with some men to a long island to look for fresh water, found some after a 26 days’ search.


The supercargo, Jerome Cornelisz, having been on the island for almost a month after the ship had run aground, and seeing the ship reduced to fragments, began to realise that his first intention of seizing the vessel had to be abandoned. Therefore he considered that his next alternative, being at the head of affairs during the absence of the Commodore, was to murder all the people except 10 men, and then with the scoundrels that remained under his command to seize the yacht that was expected to arrive from Batavia to rescue them, and to go pirating with her, or to run into port at Dunkirk or somewhere in Spain.

Daily meditating this scheme of his, he selected the following miscreants for his councillors and helpers. David van Seevangh, Gijsbert van Welderen, Coenraldt van Huyssen, Cornelisz Pietersz of Utrecht, Jan Hendricksz of Bremen, Rutgert Frederiksz of Groningen, Hans Jacob Heylwerck of Basel, and others, making them sign the following contract and swear to it:

“We the undersigned, in order to take away all distrust that exists or might arise amongst us, bind ourselves herewith, on the salvation of our souls, and on the solemn oath that God shall truly help us, to be true to each other in everything, and to love each other as brothers; also promising not to do each other any injury whatsoever in person or possession without first declaring erba1ly to each other the breach of the peace, in knowledge whereof we have signed this contract on the 12th of July, 1629, on the island Bataviae’s Herkhof’.

Webbye Hays and his men, who were still away looking for fresh water, and who, as has already been related, were successful after twenty days’ search, made three fires as a signal. But this signal was taken no notice of, for that day was the day of the general murder. Some that escaped the carnage and came to his island on wooden rafts brought him the terribly sad tidings of what had happened. He therefore, having with him now forty-five men, resolved to defend himself and his men, and to be ready for resistance if they came to fight him, making for this purpose page 5

weapons out of hoops and nails, which they tied to sticks.

Now that the people, all except 30 men and four boys, were mostly massacred and put out of the way, these miscreants resolved to go to the high island with two flat-bottomed sloops, in order to attack Webbye Hays and his men by surprise, and to kill them, thinking that otherwise he might give warning of their intention to any yacht that should come to their rescue, and thus their design would be frustrated.

Another party of people being on another little island, David Seevangh went thither towards the end of July with a well-manned sloop, attacked them by surprise, and massacred them all, except seven boys and some women.

These blood-thirsty tyrants were well-nigh intoxicated with murder, and were roused to such bold pride and arrogance, that they did not hesitate to lay hands on the company’s precious materials that had been saved, making all sorts of new-fashioned clothes out of them, which they trimmed with as much gold lace as was possible.

Jerome Cornelisz set the example, and had his helpers, whom he trusted best, and who were most ready to take part in the massacre, dressed in red cloth, trimmed with two and three bands of gold lace. Giving a still freer course to their viciousness, they further divided among themselves as booty some of the remaining women, in the following manner:— Jerome Cornelisz took for his share Lucretia Jansz, the wife of Boudlwign van der Mylen; Coenraldt van Huyssen took Judigh Gysberts, the eldest daughter of their minister, Gysbert Schastiaensz, who had to suffer this patiently if he would save his life; furthermore, Tryntje* and Susan Fredericks, sisters, also Annie Bosnchietsteis, Annie Herders, and Mary Lorrysen, were distributed among the remaining men. To this end various laws were prescribed to these women, to which they had to bind themselves, under oath, if they would save their lives, as will be seen from the following Act:

“We, the undersigned, bind ourselves on our soul’s salvation, and by the help of God to be true to each other and stand by each other according to our faith aforesaid, nor to have secretly or publicly any designs against each other, or to suffer such designs to exist, but in everything to consider the common weal first and foremost, and to content ourselves, according to the laws hereby framed with the following women, Lucretia Jansz, Judigh Gysbert, Annie Herders, Trijntje and Susan Fredericks, Annie Bosnchietsters and Mary Lorrysen, to keep them accordingly, and to do everything that is most conducive to the peace. In knowledge whereof we have signed this contract on the 16th of July, 1629, on the Island Batavia’s Kerckhof’.

At last the arrogant boldness of this Jerome Cornelisz rose so high that the name of super-cargo was too insignificant for him, since there was no trade to be done there. For this reason he assumed the title of Captain-General, making his people, numbered 36 men, recognise him as such on oath of fidelity and obedience, as may be seen from the following document:

“We, the undersigned, all here present on this island, being councillors, soldiers, ship’s mates and also our minister, nobody whomsoever excepted, accept as our chieftain, as captain-general, Jerome Cornelisz, to whom we swear severally and unanimously in the name of God to be faithful and obedient in whatever he shall command us; and whosoever shall do ought to the contrary shall be the Devil’s own; herewith we cancel and retract all previous public and private promises and oaths, comprising all secret comradeships, tent-mateships and other alliances of whatever name or nature they may be. We further desire that the ship’s crew among us shall no longer be called ship’s mates, but shall equally with the other soldiers be named and reckoned as belonging to one and the same company. Thus given and signed on the island, named Bataviae’s Kerckhof, on the 20th of August, 1629. Signed as follows:—

Coenraldt van Huyssen
Jacob Pietersz Cosyn
Gysbert van Welderen
Reymier Heyndricksz, Boiler
Andreis Jonas van Luyck, Soldier
Matthiys Beyr van Munsterberg, Soldier
Jaques Pilman van Pres (?), Soldier
Andries Lieben van Oldenburg, Soldier
Hans Harbenss (?) of Ditmarsz, Soldier
Jenslaen Jansz van Bremen, Ship’s Mate
Jan Wirlmere Selyns, Cooper
Cornelisz Pietersz van Uytrecht, Soldier

* Catherine

Jelis Philipsen van Malmidier, Ensign
David Seevangh
Wouter Loos Nan Mastricht
Gysbert Bastiaensz, Minister
Jan Hendricksz van Breman, Soldier
Rutgert Fredericksz, Lockmaker
Hans Fredericksz van Bremen, Soldier
Luycas Jelisz, from the Hague, Ensign
Abraham Jansz van Yperen, Musketeer
Olivier van Welderen, Ensign
Isbrant Isbrantsz van Purmerent, Assistant
Jan Egbertsz, Carpenter
Hendrick Jaspersz van Montfoort, Soldier
Johan Jacob Heylwerck van Basel
Albert Jansz van Assendelft, Musketeer
Gerrit Willemz van Enckuysen, Mate
Jan Pillegran de Bye van Bommel
Salomon de Scanis, Second Merchant
Tewis Jansz of Amsterdam, Carpenter
Claes Harmensz van Campen
Rogier Decke van Haerlem, Boy
Abraham Gerritz, of the Sierra Leonis
Lenart Michielsz van Os, Ensign

Map,reproduced from Hughes' Atlas, to illustrate the Boat Voyage of Commodore Pelsart

They go
to Fight
their Brethren

Seven or eight days after this they sat in council once more, and resolved to attack Webbye Hays and his men. If these were put out of the way they would have no one to fear. Moreover, one Pieter Lambertsz, a boatswain’s mate, had escaped with a little boat that had been roughly put together, and made his way to the other island. Him and the boat they wanted to bring back, intending to punish the deserter. Selecting twenty-two of the lustiest rascals, they went thither; but after a hard fight they were obliged to return unsuccessful. A few days after — it was in July — they made another attempt. Three boats were manned with 37 men. Jerome Cornelisz went personally, trusting that his own presence would give them the upper hand. Coming close to the island they steered straight for the shore. But Webbye Hays and his men stuck to their post, defending themselves bravely, standing off the beach up to their knees in water. Then these cursed assassins seeing that they could no nothing with violence, dropped the lion’s skin and tried that of the fox. They asked their former companions to unite with them, making use of the minister to persuade them. The latter, after a good deal of going backwards and forwards, induced them to cease fighting for that day, under promise that the next day the agreement should be confirmed with oaths, and that they should give Webbye Hays and his men some pieces of cloth for clothing in return for which they should once more enter into

possession of the misappropriated boat. When the others heard that Jerome Cornelisz through the intermediation of the minister, had made this agreement, they were by no means contented with it. Coenraldt van Huyssen declared in anger that he would fight the next day, in spite of those who wished otherwise.

is Tried

David Seevangh, who also regretted these peace negotiations, tried meanwhile to persuade to his side some French soldiers belonging to Webbye Hays’ company, promising them each 6,000 guilders. They were to come over to them next day, while the settlement of peace was taking place, and then they would the more easily despatch all Webbye Hays’ company. When the two companies had parted on the said conditions, David Seevangh told Jerome Cornelisz of his action with regard to Webbye’s soldiers. The latter was pleased with this piece of felony, and in order to offer a still stronger inducement to the soldiers, he secretly sent them the following letter by one Daniel Cornelisz, on the 23rd of July:

“Dear Brethren and Friends, Jean Hodgaer, Jean Renouw de Mirinbry, Thomas de Villier, Jean Bonniver and Eduart Coe, the more we consider your former faithful and fraternal friendship for us, the more we wonder that you, who left wi-
llingly at the request of me, your merchant captain, in order to take a survey of the high island, do not return to report on your mission, for we have always esteemed you and taken you for our best and truest brethren and friends, and have continued and still continue to seek your alliance and comradeship, which we hold in as much esteem as our own lives. But we think it strange that you seem to lend an ear to the inventions of a few miscreants who had here deserved death for mutiny, and were therefore sent to another island. They found their way into your midst without our knowledge. We sent Jean Coos de Sally to the island merely on account of Jean Thierson, who was sent because he had drunk out of the casks. For we feared that Jean Coos might help him. Afterwards we learnt that we had misjudged in this, for Jean Coos offered to stab Jean Thierson if he might only be allowed to die with us. Should he still be inclined to do this, it would be an act of friendship and a service most agreeable to us. Well then, beloved brethren and friends, return to us, together with Jean Coos, help us in the cause of justice and in the punishment of the criminals. In particular try to deliver unto us alive those who robbed us so treacherously the day before yesterday of our chief help, the boat, viz:— Lucas, the bottler’s mate; Cornelis, the fat trumpeter; Cornelis, the assistant; deaf Jan Michielsz, Adriaen the musketeer;

squinting Heynorick. Thenmis Claesz, Cornelis Hellincks, and other ship mates who are with you; for unknown to you they have a compass, with the help of which they intend to leave secretly, with the boat, for the mainland. The merchant has an especial liking for and confidence in Webbye Hays, and wishes that you shall secretly inform him of this. For further details we refer you to the report which bearer, your comrade, Daniel Cornelisz, will give you verbally, if you will give him a safe-guard. Dated the 23rd of July, 1629, on the island Bataviae’s Kerckhof”.

They do

This letter having come into the hands of Webbye Hays and his men, they at once perceived that a trap was laid for them and were on their guard. When the scoundrels and their captain, Jerome Cornelisz, in all numbering six, came the next day with the promised stuffs in order to confirm the concluded peace, and went ashore without any suspicion that their treachery had come to light, they were immediately attacked by Webbye Hays’ men. Four of them were killed, being David Seevangh (the assistant), Coenraldt van Huyssen, Gysbert van Welderen (ensign), and Cornelius Pietersz, of Utrecht (soldier). Jerome Cornelisz, their self-made Captain, was made prisoner, and Wouter Loos escaped.

They Get

Wouter Loos, of Mastricht, having escaped the danger and brought tidings of their unfortunate experience to his comrades, they unanimously proclaimed him provisional captain in Jerome’s place. In order to carry out his new function well, he did not leave Webbye Hays in peace, long, but attacked him again the next day with two well-manned boats, hoping at last to succeed in their blood-thirsty design, or to deliver Jerome Cornelisz from their hands.

But Webbye Hays was a prudent man, and being on the watch, he saw the two boats approaching. He immediately drew up his men on the beach, and they defended themselves so successfully that the rascals were compelled to go back. Four of Webbye’s men were severely wounded.

These are the principal events that happened during the absence of Commodore Francois Pelsaert among his unfortunate people. We shall relate of the sequel of their story what we have been able to learn.


When the Commodore, Francois Pelsaert, had arrived, as we related before, in the harbour of Batavia, he waited but till the next day before he went ashore and made his appearance at the court. There he acquainted the Governor-General, Jan Pietersz Coen, and his councillors with his misfortune, asking for speedy help to rescue the ship-wrecked people and to save as much as possible of the company’s goods. A few days, however, lapsed before anything could be done. Then the ship Saerdam was assigned to him, which had to be manned with a sufficient crew, and provided with victuals. Ten days passed before everything was ready.

They Sail

He was not able to sail until the 15th of July. A land breeze was blowing. In the afternoon they reached Man-eater’s Island, where they met the ship Leyden. This vessel had left the home country on the 8th of May, 1628, sailing from Texel together with the ship The Arms of Enckhuysen. The latter ship had been blown up through an explosion of the powder magazine on the 12th of October of the previous year, about the Sierra Leone. The ship Leyden had only succeeded in rescuing 57 of her people, 170 having been killed. But the people on the Leyden were now in very fair condition, for they had spent a month at Sillebor, on the island of Suiatra, which had set them up again.

Towards evening they also saw the ship Beets or Wigge, from Hoorn, which had likewise sailed among the fleet of the worthy Jacob Specks.

On the 16th it was rather calm, and that day they did not make much headway with the sails, though the current carried them pretty fast out of the Straits, for in the evening they saw the Prince’s Islands. On the morning of the 17th, they had the Prince’s Islands east-north-east of them, being becalmed the greater part of the night, but before sunrise the breeze started from the south, and they steered south-south-east. About noon the wind changed slightly to the east so that they could only bear south by west. In the afternoon of the 18th, they took their bearings at 8 deg. 25 min. southern latitude, the wind being south-east, their course south-south-west. They calculated that they had made that day 25 miles south-west by south. In the afternoon of the 19th they were in latitude 9 deg. 5 min. steering south by west with a south wind and having made about 24 miles southwest by south. On the 20th at noon, they were in latitude 11 deg. the wind being south-east by east, their course south by west; that day they had made 20 miles south south-west. On the 21st the wind was changeable, and sometimes fell to a calm. In the morning they had rain, catching 30 or 40 cans of water. At noon they were in latitude 10 deg. 38 min., and calculated that they had sailed 11 miles south-west by south. On the 22nd the wind blew with a topsail breeze from the south-east, and they steered south south-west. Taking their bearings at noon, they found themselves in latitude 12 deg. 41 min. so that they must have made 19 miles south-west by south. On the 23rd the wind was gusty with showers, and at noon they were in latitude 14 deg. having made about 22 miles. On the 24th the wind was south-east, their course south-south-west, bearing gradually more south; at noon they were 15 deg. 14 min. and had made about 22 miles. On the 25th, with an east-south-east wind, having made about 17 miles south-south-west, they were at noon in latitude 16 deg. 16 min. On the 26th the wind was east, their course south-south-east bearing south; at noon they were 17 deg. 52 min. having made 23 miles. On the 27th, at noon, they were in latitude 18 deg. 55 min, having the wind east by south, with alternate calms; they had made about 15½ miles south. On the 28th the wind ran to the south- south-east, with a fair breeze and a heavy shower; so they steered more east, their course being south; at noon they were 19 deg. 45 min. On the 29th the misty weather prevented their taking bearings, but they guessed that they had made about 20 miles south. On the 31st, the weather cleared up and at noon, they good their bearings, being 20 deg. 9 min. of south latitude, and in longitude 132 deg. 8 min; then the wind began to turn south and they steered more east, sailing south-east till night, when the wind became once more west-south-west. On the 1st of August, having sailed south-west by south with a south east wind, they were at noon in latitude 21 deg. 13 min., their longitude being 133 deg. 35 min. In this manner they continued till the 5th, when at noon they were in latitude 21 deg. 45 min., and in longitude 130 deg. 45 min. till evening they sailed south west with a south-south-easterly wind, then the wind became very changeable and they had repeatedly to alter their course. On the 6th at noon, they were in southern latitude 24 deg. 32 min.; there was a great swell from the south-west, and the wind was very variable, so that they had to steer now east, now south. On the 7th, they had reached latitude 24 deg. 49 min. sailing south west with a south-south-easterly wind, but at night the wind changed to the east-south-east, and they steered south in a drizzling rain. On the 10th at noon they were in southern latitude 27 deg. 54 min. and sailed mostly east with a north-east wind, according to its variations, the weather being very rough. On the 11th, before noon, the wind blew west, so that they sailed west-north-west being in latitude 27 deg. 57 min., at night it blew with a strong breeze from the south and south-south-west. On the 12th at noon having reached 27 deg. 2 min. they had the wind from the south by west and steered east, the weather being changeable in the afternoon, the wind ran to the south-east, so that they changed their course. On the 13th, at noon, they were 23 deg. 5 mm., the wind was south-east, the weather calm, so they sailed south-west and south-west by south; but afterwards the wind became changeable and they had accordingly to change their course repeatedly. On the 14th the sky was overcast, and they could take no bearings but they guessed that they were in the same latitude, the wind being south-west by south, and with a big swell from the south they sailed east south-east. On the 15th they were in latitude 26 deg. 30 min., they had a southerly wind with a strong breeze and showery weather, so that they sailed east southeast. On the 16th at noon they were in 26 deg. 16 min. south, the wind was south, but during the night it ran south-east by south, wherefore they took their course seaward for the west. On the 17th at noon they could take no bearings but calculated that they had made two miles south, having had all night a stiff breeze from the south-south-west In the morning the water became smooth, and the wind changed to the east. On the 18th again they were unable to take bearings, but guessed that they were in southern latitude 27 deg. 15 min; it was fine, and the wind was east-south-east, so that all day they sailed due south. On the 19th, at noon, they were in 28 deg. 29 min. and had a shakey breeze from the East-south-east, which during the morning changed to south-south-west, after which it became calm. On the 20th, at noon, they were in southern latitude 29 deg. 10 mm., the wind was south, they took their course, east by south, during the night they had a shakey breeze and variable winds. On the 21st, they could take no bearings, but guessed their latitude as they had done before; they sailed page 6

with a south wind, bearing east; having a strong roll from the south-south-west, they next went east by south. On the 22nd at noon, they found themselves in southern latitude 29 deg. 19 min; the wind was south, their course northeast; then the steersmen guessed that they were about 15 leagues from the wreck of the ship. On the 23rd, having reached a latitude of 28 deg. 14 min, with the wind south-west, their course east, they guessed that they must be alongside the coast, and, therefore, during the night they drifted for two watches with the sail partly brailed.

Having proceeded till the morning of the 25th, they found themselves at noon at a southern latitude of 27 deg. 56 min. They found that, as usual, during those 24 hours the current had taken them northward; they saw a good many breakers, and imagined they also saw some islands and surf, but this appeared to be caused by the reflection of the sun; they had then the wind south and more or less by east During the first watch of the night it ran south-south-east, wherefore they took their course westerly; it then became calm, but the sea ran terribly high from the south-south-west On the 26th, at noon, their latitude was 28 deg. 5 min., the wind was south by west, the sea high and hollow; in the afternoon the wind changed to south-south-east, they then took their course westward; when they had run like this about nine or ten hour glasses, the high seas compelled them once more to steer east. On the 27th it was calm during the greater part of the day, so that they steered boldly westward; at noon their latitude was 28 deg. 13 min; then the seas began to roll from the south; towards evening a cool breeze rose from the south-west, wherefore they sailed south-east, but during the night they were again repeatedly becalmed.

They See

On the 28th, having reached latitude 28 deg. 35 min, they sailed east with a south-south-west wind; then they saw the first seaweeds floating, from which they guessed that they would soon see the land; for two watches of the night they progressed rapidly south, but during the day-watch they drifted with the sail partly brailed, for in the morning the wind changed again to south-east by east.

On the 29th their latitude was 28 deg. 10 min., the wind was south-east by south; the weather was rough; the mainsails were lowered half-mast, so that again they lost latitude; in the evening they bore seaward, sailing all night south-west by west. On the 30th at noon, their latitude was 29 deg. 55 min.; the wind was south-east by south, the seas rolled high from the south-south-west. On the 31st, before noon, it was very calm, they took their bearings, and found that they were in latitude 29 deg. 49 min. After noon the wind rose from the west; they took their course north-east by east, not knowing how far they still were from the land. In the morning the wind ran round to the south-east and the east-north-east.

On the 1st September, with variable winds, they reached a latitude of 29 deg. 16 min., they found it impossible to get round to the east On the morning of the 2nd the wind ran north with a top-sail breeze; at noon their latitude was 30 deg. 16 min.; they then found that they were driven rapidly south; in the evening the wind veered to the north-west, wherefore they sailed north-east by north. On the morning of the 3rd, the wind was west. They saw much seaweed floating, and therefore took their course east.

They Arrive
not without
at the

At noon they sighted the southern continent stretching north-north-west and south-south-east, when they were still about 3 miles away from it, they saw it stretching, they guessed, for about four miles south, and then ending; it was a flat and barren country, with dunes here and there, as in the north. At 25 fathoms they had a splendid sandy bottom. They were then in latitude 29 deg. 16 min. They took their course north-west, with a west-south-west wind; but the rollers pressed them so close to the coast, that in the evening they had to keep a mile from the shore, since about the second hourglass, or the first watch, the anchor broke into two pieces, so that they had to drop another in haste, not without some danger. On the morning of the 14th, the wind was south-west by south with a high roll; during the day the wind changed to south-south-west; they then weighed the anchor and were under sail before noon, bearing west-north-west seaward, to get off the lower shore. At noon they were in southern latitude 28 deg. 50 min.; here the land began slightly to run off north by west and south by east; in the afternoon the wind became south, wherefore they sailed north, about evening they noticed some dry land, straight ahead or west of them. When they were about a musket-shot away from it, they found at 25 fathoms the bottom like that of a fine beach, wherefore they turned, keeping away from it at about half a mile’s distance east-south-east. At about

five miles’ distance from the continent they cast the anchor in a depth of 27 fathoms on a clear bottom, the night was calm, the weather splendid, with a south by east wind.

They see

On the 15th the wind was south-south-east, the weather lovely. At daybreak they weighed the anchor, and having sailed south-south-west for an hour they perceived ahead in their course some shallows and islets on which the breakers ran. The wind gradually veered round, and became east, so that they could sail more south, and even south-south-east. This reef or dry land stretched south-south-west and north-north-east; alongside they found at

27, 28 or 29 fathoms a sandy bottom. At 11, before noon, they lost sight of the main land, being then in southern latitude 28 deg. 59 min., close to a point of the reef jutting out west-south-west of them. The bottom was dirty and sloping, at a depth of 50 or 60 fathoms of water. In the afternoon a calm set in, so that the current took them right west, and a good deal west they left the breakers behind. They guessed that then they were about eight miles from the main land. This calm lasted all night, and they drifted so close along the breakers that they could hear their roar the whole night. On the morning of the 6th the breakers were out of sight. About 11 the wind came from the west-north-west. They were again approaching the breakers being at noon in latitude 28 deg. 44 min. Then it began to blow very hard from the north-west, so that during that afternoon

Ongeluckige voyagie vant schip Batavia (Plate 3).jpg

they tacked. Finding that the current took them a good deal north-west, in the evening they turned again seaward from the breakers, having a dirty rocky bottom at 40 fathoms. This dry land extended south-east and north-west. In the evening such a stiff breeze arose that the whole night through they had to sail with a half-mast sail, and to take the wind variously. On the morning of the 7th the weather calmed down, so that they could once more hoist the sails. At noon they were in latitude 29 deg. 30 min. They then turned north to get sight of the mainland. Then, as the wind blew sharper, from the west-northwest, they were obliged to turn seaward. On the 8th at noon, being in latitude 29 deg. 7 min., they took their course north-east, so that in the evening they again sighted the breakers; they therefore bore west-southwest seaward all night; with a north-west wind. Then it began to blow so hard, that they had to take down the top sails. On the morning of the 9th, they once more turned to the land, being at noon in latitude 29 deg., and spending the rest of the day in turning to and fro; in the evening a severe storm blew from the north-west, and they found it difficult enough to keep going with the reefed sails. On the 10th the wind was west, with a topsail breeze, having hoisted the sails again they reached at noon the southern latitude of 29 deg. 30 min.

On the morning of the 11th it was calm, but the sea was high, the wind blew from the west-south-west, so that they could not gain any distance north without approaching the breakers, at noon they reached the latitude of 28 deg. 48 min., with variable winds. All that night they sailed with a reefed sail. On the morning of the 12th they set sail again in an easterly direction, till at noon they found themselves at 28 deg. 13 min. Therefore, they went somewhat south again, in order to approach the land exactly at 28 deg. 20 min. The wind was south-west, and the sea high. In the afternoon, two hours before sunset, they sighted the breakers again, from which they guessed they were still two miles away. Then, dropping the lead-line, they found splendid sandy bottom at 100 fathoms; but, having come half a mile nearer and sounded again, they touched a dirty stony bottom at 30 fathoms. Therefore, during the night, in the second watch, they turned seawards; and continued so till the day watch, when they turned again landward, in order to approach the shore.

at the

On the 13th, three hours after sunrise, they once more discovered the breakers, and having taken their bearings, they found that they had lost a mile to the north, as the wind had been south-south-east; as they had arrived at the most northerly point of the Abroihos, and always seemed to get too high or too low, whereas it was dangerous to approach them from the outside, they resolved to bear through the rollers and the dirty depths, below the outer dry land; and then tacked again a little, with the wind south-south-east, their course east, coming a little closer in, they immediately had a clear bottom at 30 to 35 fathoms of water; at noon they were in latitude 28 deg.; shortly after they saw again the southern mainland. A stiff breeze began to blow, consequently they anchored at about two miles from the shore, at 30 fathoms of clear sandy bottom. On the 14th it blew hard from the south-

south-east, so that they could not weigh the anchor, and had to lie still all day. On the 15th, the wind continued with equal force till noon, then it became calmer, so that they could lift the anchor on board and wind it up; having set sail, they reached at noon the latitude of 27 deg. 14 min. The wind was south-south-east, and they tacked all day in order to advance south; in the evening they found that they had made two miles. It was dark, and they anchored again in a clear sandy bottom at 30 fathoms depth. On the morning of the 16th, at daybreak, they weighed the anchor again, and took their course more or less south, with a west-south-west wind. In the afternoon the wind changed to west, then to north, so that they could sail west. Towards evening they saw the wreck of their ship Batavia, and the Commodore was seen from the high island, though the mates said it was not one of the islands. At two o’clock in the night they anchored in a clear, sandy bottom at 27 fathoms depth.


On the morning of the 17th they again weighed the anchor. The wind was north. They were still about two miles from the high island; they approached it in south-westerly direction. Before noon, having come about the island, they saw close to the wreck, on a long islet, some smoke, at which they were much rejoiced, hoping to find all or most of their people alive. Having cast the anchor, the Commodore, taking with him a cask of water, and bread and wine, went with the boat to the highest island, which was nearest by; but on arriving there he found no one, at which they were all very much astonished. Jumping ashore, they saw a little boat with four men rowing round the northern point. The one whose name was Webbye Hays jumped ashore, meeting the Commo-

dore, and welcoming him, but begging of him to return immediately to the ship, as there were a party of miscreants on the islands about the wreck, who intended to come in two boats and seize the yacht on its arrival.

in a

He related how he had become a captain of forty-seven people, who, to save their lives, had kept all that time on a little island, since some of the people, who were left behind, had turned scoundrels and murdered some one hundred and twenty-five people, being men, women and children.

About fourteen days ago the super-cargo, Jerome Cornelisz, the chief of these scoundrels, had been captured by him. Four of his principal counsellors and accomplices, viz. — The assistant, David van Seevanck, Coenraldt van Huyssen, Gysbert van Welderen, and Cornelis Pietersz, of Utrecht, soldier, had been killed. These had repeatedly come across to fight him and his men, but every time they had been bravely kept off; then they had used traitorous and sinister means to conquer and murder them, offering them peace through the intermediation of their minister, Gysbert Sebastiaensz, whom they forced to go backwards and forwards. When they came to conclude the peace with solemn oaths, promising to forget and forgive all that had passed, David van Seevanck and Coenraldt van Huyssen tried to bribe some soldiers to treason, offering them each six thousand guilders, if, when they returned next day after the conclusion of the peace, these men would side with them and help to kill the others. But Webbye’s men had understood this, and, perceiving that it was aimed at their life, they killed these fellows, and captured their captain, as related above. He further described how that same morning, one rebel, named Worter Loos, who had been proclaimed chief after the capture of the former Captain, Jerome, had attacked them with two boats full of men, whom they had bravely resisted, and kept off, four of Webbye Hays’ men having been severely wounded in the fray. When the Commodore had learnt all these sad tidings with deep regret, he immediately rowed aboard again, ordering Webbye Hays to row back to his people and to bring the prisoner, Jerome Cornelisz, to the ship, which was done as ordered. But before the Commodore could get to his ship he saw a rowing boat with people approaching round the southern point of the high land, wherefore he prepared for defence, with the intention, if possible, to overpower and capture the scoundrels. Meanwhile he continued his course to the ship.

They see a
Boat with

On reaching her, he found that the rebels were boldly coming on in the same direction. When they were close enough he could distinguish their red cloth dresses, trimmed all over with gold lace. The Commodore asked them why they came on board armed. They answered that they would tell him when they were on board. After this insolent reply he ordered them to throw their weapons into the sea, and to come across or he would know how to force them to obedience.

Whom They

Seeing that they had no escape, they obeyed, and coming on board, they were at once put in irons.

of Jan

Their examinations commenced at once. The first one to be examined was Jan Hendricksz, of Bremen, soldier, who immediately let out and confessed to have killed and helped to kill 17 or 20 people, but everything at the express orders of Jerome Cornelisz, their captain, who had forced them to it. Having further been questioned as to the causes and circumstances of all this, and as to what had led them to such inhuman cruelty, he stated his willingness to reveal everything, also how all had happened in the beginning, viz., that the Skipper, Adriaen Jacobsz, Jerome Cornelisz, and the first boatswain had made a compact with the others to seize the vessel Batavia, before it was wrecked, to kill the Commodore and all the crew and passengers, except about 120 who were in the plot, and to throw the dead overboard into the sea; then to go pirating and free-booting with the vessel. Wherefore Jerome Cornelisz and his men on the island had made sure that the Skipper would have killed the Commodore on the way, or have thrown him overboard into the sea, and having been on the island for a month, he thought he could do nothing better than kill all the people but forty, with whom he would seize the yacht on its arrival. He felt, however, that this could not be done unless Webbye Hays and his men, who had been sent to the long island for water twenty days before, were put out of the way. They had started upon this fiendish expedition, and made some attacks already, but had not succeeded.

Given up

Towards evening Webbye Hays brought Jerome Cornelisz to the Commodore on board ship as a prisoner. The Commodore looked at him with deep sorrow, not being able to conceive what had induced him to forget himself so far that he had become the cause of such inhuman murders. Being examined in the presence of the Council, the Commodore asked him why he had allowed the devil to lead him so far astray from all human feeling, and had done that which had never been so cruelly perpetrated among Christians, without any real need of hunger or thirst, solely out of cold

Had been

bloodthirstiness, and to attain his wicked ends. To which he replied, that, they should not blame him for what had happened, putting it all on David van Seevanck, Coenraldt van Huyssen and others, who had been killed in the last encounter with Webbye Hays’ men. He said they had forced him to it, threatening otherwise to take his life. One had often to do a great deal to save oneself. He denied ever having had the intention to help to seize the vessel Batavia, and to the project of seizing any yacht that should come to their rescue, he said Seevanck had proposed this, and he had only consented, but without meaning seriously, since he supposed that they would never be delivered from these unfortunate islands. For he had heard one, Ryck Wontersz, say that Skipper Adriaen had intended to seize the vessel, if it had not been wrecked, and to throw the Commodore overboard, which made him think they could never have reached Batavia, but that the Skipper must have gone to Malacca; or should it have happened that the Commodore had reached Batavia, and that a yacht were sent to their rescue, he would have tried to give warning. In this manner, he tried to excuse himself with his glib tongue, telling the most palpable lies, and making Out that he had been altogether innocent and ignorant of everything, often appealing to the mates, as if they could have known his inner thoughts, saying that they would give a similar testimony. At this the matter was left that day, and he was again incarcerated.


On the 18th September before daylight, the Commodore and the Skipper went with the two boats to the long island, where Webbye Hays was with his men. He took the soldiers from thence, arming each with a good musket. With those he proceeded to the island named “Batavia’s Churchyard”, which was close to the wreck his intention was to catch the remaining scoundrels who were still there, and make them prisoners. When they saw the Commodore approaching with his two well-manned boats, their hearts immediately failed them, and their courage sank before they had made any resistance. They said to each other, “Now we are all dead men”, thinking that they were going to be killed in hot haste. But in this they were mistaken. When the Commodore had landed, he caused all the rebels to be bound hand and foot, and to be secured as prisoners; then his first work was to seek the jewels that lay scattered here and there. Those were all found except a gold chain and ring, though the ring came to light after all.

page 7

They go to
the Wreck
of the

Going to the wreck in the evening, they found the ship lying in many pieces, a part of the keel, showing the flat of the hold, from which everything was washed away from front to back, except some of the planking, which still rose above the water. It was almost exactly the same spot where it had been first. A piece of the front of the vessel broken off at the curvature was rocked on the dry places. In it were two pieces of cannon (one of metal and one of iron) fallen from the ramparts, without anything more. Thereabouts lay further to one side of the stem, part of the vessel, broken off at the crossing of the stem-board. Then there were several fragments of a smaller size, drifted apart to various places. Altogether it did not look promising, and there was little hope of saving much of the money and mthe goods.

Report of

The Commodore was somewhat comforted by the butler, Reymier Heyndricksz, who informed him that about a month ago, on a calm and fine day (almost the first since their arrival there), he had gone fishing about the wreck, because the fish seemed to be plentiful there; that with a spear he had hit on a money chest, and hoped it would not have been washed away since. Upon which the Commodore asked him further how the wreck had fared since his departure, and how long the vessel had remained together. He answered that for a week she had held together, then the prow and the higher parts began to be washed away, not being able to resist the daily violent storms and the strength of the breakers; at last the port-side was broken to pieces. He had been astonished to see so strong a vessel so easily broken asunder and demolished. Then at different times floated ashore and were saved several barrels of water, a barrel of French wine, and four and a half barrels of Spanish wine, also one barrel of vinegar. All this stood them in good stead. But before this the Lord had sent them during the night of the 9th and 10th July a steady rain (the same rain that the Commodore had about the mainland when he and his boat were in great danger of sinking) which furnished them with a good deal of water; so that with this and with that which they had fished out of the sea, all the people might have kept themselves from thirst for a long time, everyone receiving daily three cups of water and two cups of wine; if only the Devil, their chief; had not tempted them to such horrible murder.

In the evening the principal scoundrels and their helpers, that had been captured and put in irons that day, were taken to the Seals Island, to remain there till they would be sent for, to be once more examined. It was thought that they would be better secured there.


On the morning of the 19th, the Skipper was sent to bring ashore the following miscreants, who were imprisoned in the ship, with a view to examining them as to the wicked life they had led; Jerome Cornelisz, the supercargo; Jacob Pietersz, of Amsterdam, a subordinate officer, who had been their lieutenant and one of the council of mutineers; Jan Hendricksz, of Bremen, a soldier, one of the chief murderers; Rutgert Fredericksz, of Gromigen, a locksmith; Hans Jacob Heyewerck, of Basel, ensign; Luycas Jelisz, of the Hague, ensign; Hans Fredericksz, of Bremen, soldier; Jan Willemsz Selijus, of Amsterdam, chief cooper; Heyndrick .Jaspersz, of Montfoort, soldier; Hans Hardens, of Ditmarose, soldier; Jacques Pilman, from near Verdun, soldier; and Gerri Haes, of Santlu, boatswain’s mate.

From cross questionings and free confessions of all these it became evident that day what a wicked life these out and out miscreants had led on the island, not refraining from shamefully misusing the company’s goods, cloths and materials, gold trimmings, and other wares, which they had fished up. With these they had clothed themselves trimming them with so much gold lace that the material was hardly visible, as might be observed from Jerome Cornelisz’ clothes, who, it appeared, set the example in all this. Neither had they refrained from appropriating to themselves the rescued goods and clothes that were private property, and from distributing these for use, as if they had been left to them by bequest. Jerome Cornelisz had gone so far in his satanic pride, that he had not scrupled to wear different clothes every day, and to deck himself out in silk stockings and garters with gold trimmings. He had clothed those of his adherents whom he trusted most in the work of assassination with red cloth, trimmed with two or more bands of gold lace. He had invented fresh patterns of cassocks for every day. Clearly he had been convinced and had persuaded the others, that this vain and wicked revelry would last for ever.

as a

When most of the murdering was done, he distributed the following remaining women among his followers as a booty, in this manner:— Lucretia Jans, the wife of Boudewijn Vanner Mylen, he kept for himself; Judigh Gysbert, the eldest daughter of the minister, he gave to Coenraldt van

Huyssen. The remaining women, the sisters Catherine and Susan Fredericks, Annie Bosnchietsters, and Mary Lorrysen, were allotted to the other men. To prevent all disastrous dissension, he made a code of regulations, which every one signed under oath, as is given in the preceding pages. The women also, if they wished to save their lives, had to swear allegiance to those regulations.


On the 20th of September, before noon, the boat was sent to the vessel to bring ashore some necessaries, and the long boat to the island on which Webbye Hays and his people were to find some fresh water. They had after having been on that island 20

The Abrolhos Tragedy (Figure 8).jpg The Abrolhos Tragedy (Figure 9).jpg

days, miraculously found two wells of fresh water, which, nevertheless, rose and fell with the high and the low tide, so that at first they had imagined that it must be salt water.

On the 21st the breeze blew fresh from the east-south-east They then noticed that the water remained very low there, and the longboat could not come back from the island that day on account of the strong wind;, they therefore spent that day examining the prisoners.

This strong wind continued on the 22nd, and the longboat did not come yet. Towards noon the Commodore and the Skipper and three men went in a boat to the wreck, to survey its exact position, but when they reached it the breakers were so terrible that the divers durst not undertake to swim across, so in the evening they returned to the vessel without having done anything.

On the 23rd the wind was still as before. That morning the prisoners who bad been sent to the Seals Island, were sent for to be examined, which occupied the whole day. Meanwhile the Skipper was again sent to

The Abrolhos Tragedy (Figure 10).jpg

the wreck to see whether any of the goods could be secured; but he returned stating that it was still impossible on account of the terrible breakers. On the 24th September, nothing particular happened except that the Skipper went aboard with the boat in order to bring some necessaries on shore, as it was not yet possible to work at the wreck.

On the evening of the 25th, the weather being still, the Skipper and the boatswain were again sent to the wreck to see whether it was possible to set to work. When they had arrived there, it was noticed from the shore that they were busy getting something out of the water. The Commodore, therefore, sent the other boat to their assistance, well manned, he himself following in the smallest boat, with a man and two boys, in order to join them. When he arrived there he found them busy with a bundle of tinsel and a chest

They Fish
up some
Chests of
Money and

of money, which they had fished up there. They brought them on the dry land at some distance from the wreck. The Commodore passed into the other boat, where they were fishing and just bringing up another chest of money; the divers

from Gugerat declared that they had found six more money chests and that it would be quite feasible to bring them up. Meanwhile the second chest that had been brought to the surface was propped and moved on to the dry land, so now they had already obtained and secured four chests; the divers prepared for the return of the Skipper. Then, however, the wind rose with such force and the sea ran against the wreck so violently that they were obliged to leave. Therefore they fetched the secured chests from the dry places, and took them to the island Batavia’s Churchyard. The remainder of the day they spent in examining the prisoners.

On the 26th a strong wind blew from the south-west, so that they could not work at the wreck, wherefore the boat was sent to another island to bring them a capstan and some empty oil casks that were there. Before noon another boat went out to get water. Meanwhile the Commodore sent for Cornelisz Jansz, of Amsterdam, assistant, and Aris Cornelisz, of Hoorne, barber, in order to question them on that which had happened while they tried to escape from being killed. In the afternoon the weather became calm and the water smooth, so that the Skipper immediately went to the wreck with a well-manned boat, in order to bring up and secure the money chests they had discovered on the previous day. When he returned late in the afternoon he brought three of them. One of them he had as yet been obliged to leave, as it could not be got until a piece of cannon and an anchor, which were lying cross ways on top of it, had been removed with great labour and trouble.

On the 27th there blew a stiff breeze from the south, and that day they were unable to work at the wreck. Before noon the longboat returned from the high island, bring the two above named persons, Cornelis Jansz and Aris Pietersz, whose testimony was to be heard against the other assassins and miscreants. That day, therefore, was devoted to the examination.

The Examina-
tion of the

On the 28th the same stiff south wind continued, and it was still impossible to work at the wreck, so that they proceeded with the examination, and pretty

nigh finished it. The intentions of the principal miscreants and murderers became sufficiently evident from their own confessions, from various testimonies, and, alas, from the dire results of their actions. This will be seen from the following written testi-

The Council
is Called

monies. The Commodore, therefore, resolved to call together the Council, and to discuss and consider maturely the proposition, whether these murderers and miscreants, the blood of whose victims was calling loudly for revenge, should be put in irons and taken to Batavia before the Lord


Governor, or whether they should be here sentenced and put to death according to their deserts as an example to others; for the danger existed that the ship and all her cargo might be lost, if they went to sea with so many half and wholly corrupted people. It was their duty to prevent this catastrophe, which undoubtedly threatened the vessel through the presence of such miscreants as Jerome Cornelisz and his accomplices, especially as already some, or perhaps all the remaining mates, might have imbibed the poison of their ill-intentioned seduction. Being still contaminated with the recollections of the

wicked life of brigandage, they might, when at sea, break out and be corrupted and tempted by the great riches of the wreck, belonging to their Masters. Upon this consideration the following resolution was passed.

On this day, the 28th of September, 1629, the Commodore, Francois Palsaert, and his ship’s counsellors of the yacht Sardam, on the island Batavia’s Churchyard, situate near the wreck of the vessel Batavia, in latitude 28 deg. south, about nine miles from the mainiand have resolved as follows:


“Having, after many hardships and dangers (for which God be praised), arrived on the 17th September of this year, 1629, with our yacht Sardam, about the high island, two miles from the wreck of our unfortunate ship Batavia, the Commodore, who went with bread, water and wine to the people on the land (whom we knew to be there on account of the rising smoke), in order to feed and refresh them, was met by a little boat with four men, who cautioned him to return on board directly, since on one of the islands near the

wreck there were a party of miscreants who intended to seize the yacht that had come to their rescue. The supercargo, Jerome Cornelisz, the chief of these miscreants, who had had the intention of surprising and murdering those who were now warning the Commodore, had been captured by the latter. The Commodore immediately sent for this man and had him brought on board as a prisoner. He returned to his ship, in order to communicate to his people the sad tidings he had so unexpectedly received and to make them prepare for defence. But already, while on this journey, eleven of these miscreants came rowing towards him in a flat-bottomed boat. He went on board the vessel, ordering the rebels to surrender. They submitted, and were imprisoned on board. All these, and also Jerome Cornelisz, who was brought on board in the meantime were examined. Again it became sadly evident what horrible, abominable murders these men had perpetrated, viz., the said Jerome, further David van Seevangh, the assistant, and Coenraldt van Huyssen, ensign, both of whom had been killed on the high island a fortnight ago, at the time when Jerome Cornelisz had been captured; also Jacob Pietersz, a subaltern, who had escaped on that occasion. Their intention had been to kill all the people except 40 or less, and next they had planned to conquer and kill a certain number, about 47 men, who had fled from the murder to the high island. They had made repeated assaults on these, but had been driven back every time. According to their own confession, they had wished to seize upon the first yacht that should come to their rescue, and sail to Spain, Barbary, or some similar place, living as pirates. “They had further, according to their own confession and testimony, murdered more than 120 people - men, women, and children - drawing many, and killing others in all sorts of cruel ways, the principal assassins still being alive:- Lenaert Michielsz van Os, soldier; Matthijs Beyr, of Munterberg, ensign; Jan Hendricksz, of Bremen, soldier; Allert Jansz, of Assendeift, musketeer; Rutgert Fredericks, of Gronnigen, locksmith; Jan Pillegromsz de Bye, of Bounnell, steward; and Andries Jonasz, of Liege, soldier; besides their accomplices. Having therefore inquired and examined daily from the 17th of this month of September until this day in order to find the truth of all this, we have obtained knowledge of the following facts, from our examination as well as from voluntary confessions:— Jerome Comelisz, supercargo of the vessel Batavia, after sailing from the Capo de Bonna Esperanse (Cape of Good Hope), entered into a conspiracy with the Skipper, Adriaen Jacobsz, intending to seize the vessel, and to assassinate all the people except one hundred and twenty; further, to sail as pirates and, finally, to run into port in Spain or some other place. This scheme they were unable to carry out, on account of their shipwreck. He, himself, confessed that it was by his orders, and with the approval of his Council, that so many people were murdered in order to reduce the company to a small number. He had further planned with David van Seevangh, Coenraldt van Huyssen, and Jacob Pietersz, to seize the first yacht that should arrive, but meanwhile they intended to try and conquer the people on the large island, or bring them to submission. If then a yacht had come they would have induced the crew to come ashore with a boat, and made them drunk; after which it would have been easy to put them out of the way, and to surreptitiously seize the vessel by night They thought this plot could not very well fail, for they calculated that such a yacht would not carry more than 20 or 30 men. Having after a long cross-examination of all the remaining people, with God’s help, obtained an exact and true knowledge of these terrible deeds, the Commodore has proposed a choice between two courses. Either these reprobate miscreants, tainted with every crime and divested of all human pity, are to be put in irons on the vessel and taken to Batavia, to the Lord General to be punished according to their deserts by especial order of the authorities, our Lords and Masters; or they are to be punished at the very place where their crimes were committed, in order to expose the ship and the crew to no further danger. This question has been ripely considered, and during its discussion attention has been also paid to the fact that Jerome Cornelisz is not only tainted with abominable crimes, but has moreover adopted a most abominable creed, maintaining that there is neither devil nor hell, and trying to inculcate this belief on his comrades, thereby corrupting them all. It has, therefore, been unanimously approved and resolved, as best serving the interest of the Company, and in order to secure from further danger both the vessel and the precious cargo just retrieved from the waters, to sentence and condemn Jerome Cornelisz aforesaid, and his most willing fellow assassins, those that have made a profession of murder.


As they are hereby sentenced and condemned as follows:— First: Jerome Comelisz, of Haerlam, chemist, having been supercargo on the vessel Batavia, shall, after having been baptised according to his request on Monday, the 1st of October of this year 1629, be taken to Seals’ Island, there to the place where justice will be done. There, first both his hands shall be cut off, and he shall next be punished with the cord at the gallows there erected, and so done to death. His goods, money, gold, silver, monthly wages, and other pretensions that he might have to make in India will be confiscated on behalf of our masters, the General East India Company.

Sentence of
Jan Hen-

Jan Hendricksz, of Bremen, soldier, about 24 years old, who, according to his confession, borne out more fully by subsequent examination, had murdered, or helped to murder, 17 or 18 people, and has also had the intention to help to seize the first yacht arriving, shall likewise be taken to Seals’ Island, to the place where justice will be done, and first have his right hand cut off, and then punished with the cord at the gallows until he is dead. All his clothes, monthly pay, and whatever he might have to claim against our Lords and Masters will be confiscated.

van Os

Lenaert Michielsz van Os, ensign, about twenty-one years old, having, according to his confession, murdered, or helped to murder, twelve people, misbehaved with married women, and kept Annie Bossihieters, the wife of Jan Castersz of Tonninghen, as his concubine, shall likewise be taken to Seals’ Island, to the place of Justice, and have his right hand cut off; and be punished with the cord at the gallows until he is dead, and all his clothes, monthly pay, and what further claims he may have, will be confiscated on behalf of our Lords and Masters.


Matthijs Beyr of Munsterbergh, about twenty-one years old, having, according to his free confession, murdered, and helped to murder, nine people, and having kept Susan Fredericks, a married woman, as his concubine, shall be brought to justice on Seals’ Island; first his right hand will be cut off, and then he will be punished with the cord

page 8

at the gallows until he is dead. His clothes, monthly pay, and goods, are forfeited to the company, our Lords and Masters.

of Al-
lert Jansz

Allert Jansz, of Assendelft, musketeer, about 24 years old, having confessed of his own free will that, being persuaded by Jerome Cornelisz, he had promised to assist in seizing the vessel Batavia. Further, that he had cut the throat of Andries de Bruyn of Haarlam, a cabin boy; that he had helped to kill Jan Pinten, an Englishman; that he had tried one night to kill Aris Jansz, of Hoorn, barber's assistant, but that the bluntness of his sword had frustrated his design, though he had given him a cut on the shoulders which did not penetrate, so that his victim escaped in the water through the darkness of the night; that he had further committed all sorts of wanton acts after the wreck of the vessel; shall for these reasons be taken to Seals' Island, and according to his sentence first have his right hand cut off, and then be punished with the cord at the gallows until he is dead. His clothes and monthly pay will be confiscated on behalf of the Company.

of Jan
gronsz de

Jan Pillegronsz de Bye of Bommel, late steward on board the wrecked vessel Batavia, about eighteen years old, having, according to his own confession, led a very Godless and bestial life, in words as well as in deeds, murdered a boy on Seals' Island, and helped to kill Janneken Gijssen, the wife of Jan Hendricksz of The Hague, musketeer, also Andries Jansz; having further insisted on the sixteenth of August last of being allowed to cut off the head of Cornelisz Aldersz of Ilpendam, a labourer, and, when this was refused, cried very much because the favour had been granted to Matthijs Beyr; having misbehaved himself with the sisters Susan and Catherine Fredericks and Annie Bosnchietsters, all of them married women, shall be taken to Seals' Island and be punished with the cord at the gallows, until he is dead, his clothes, monthly pay, and whatever claims he may have against the authorities, our Lords and Masters, will be confiscated.


Andries Jonasz of Liege, soldier, about 40 years old, having confessed voluntarily that when Paulus Barentsz was killed in the water he had thrust a pike through his throat and caused him to die; that he had cut the throat of May Soets on Seals' Island she being at the time pregnant; also that he had helped to kill Jannie Gist and Jan van Hammel; finally that he had lent assistance on every wicked expedition; shall therefore also be taken to Seals' Island and be punished with the cord at the gallows until he is dead. All his clothes, monthly pay and whatever he might have to claim against our Lords and Masters, the Company, will be confiscated.


Rutgert Fredericksz of Groningen, locksmith, about 23 years old, confessed voluntarily that he had tied the hands and feet of Jacob Groenewal, the first trumpeter, who was going to be drowned; when Seevangh and De Vries carried Groenewal into the sea; also, that when the Prevost, Pieter Jansz, and fourteen of his men were thrown into the sea from the rafts, and

Paulus Barentsz and Bossel Jansz, both of Herderwijo, and Nicolaes Winckelbaeck and Claus Harmansz, of Magdeburg, escaped swimming, finding refuge on the island, he had been ordered by Jeronymus Cornelisz to kill them; that he Rutgert Fredericksz then gave Paulus Barentsz two cuts with his sword, and from him fell upon Claes Harmansz, killing him only. When the assistant, Andries de Vries, was also to be killed, he and Jan Hendricksz and Laenaert Michielsz were all called into Jerome Corneljsz's tent, who gave them each a sword to put Andries de Vries out of the way with; to which end he willingly gave his services. But De Vries, seeing that he was in danger, fled into the water, where Laenart Michielsz pursued him and killed him with two blows of his sword, thus preventing Rutgert Fredericksz from giving any assistance. Moreover, Jerome Cornelisz affirms that the said Rutgert like Mattjijs Beyr, has allowed himself to be made use of willingly in everything, so that he has no excuse whatever to bring forward. Therefore, he shall be taken to Seals' Island, and punished at the gallows until he is dead. All his clothes, monthly pay, and whatever he has to claim will be confiscated on behalf of the Company our Masters.


We have further resolved as to the following miscreants, who are still in custody, and whose misdeeds have not yet been fully inquired into and confirmed, so that the proofs must still be doubted and considered, leaving it uncertain whether they deserve death, or whether their lives may be spared without incurring the disgrace of our Lord General, that they shall remain in irons

till further charges shall be proved against them, either to be taken to Batavia, or eventually to be committed to sentence on the voyage, namely,

Wouter Loos, of Mastricht, soldier, who was made captain of the rebels after the capture of Jerome Cornelisz.
Jacob Pietersz, of Amsterdam, corporal, who has been a counsellor of Jerome Cornelisz, David van Seevanck and Coenraldt van Huyssen.
Hans Jacobsz, of Basel, Ensign.
Daniel Cornelisz, of Dordrecht, Ensign.
Andries Liebent, of Oldenburgh, Ensign.
Hans Fredericksz, of Bremen, soldier.
Cornelisz Jansz, of Haerlam, boatswain's mate.
Jan Willemsz Selijus, of Amsterdam, cooper.
Rogier Decker, of Haerlam, formerly boy to Jerome Cornelisz.

Further, having found from various testimonies and from incontrovertible evidence that Webbye Hays, of Winn-

The Abrolhos Tragedy (Figure 11).jpg

hooten, soldier, when he was on the high island with forty-seven souls, protected them faithfully and preserved them bravely from the murderous party that intended to put them all together out of the way, attacking them for this purpose three times, we have found good, since there are no officers over the soldiers, to appoint the said Webbye Hays a sergeant, with a pay of eighteen guilders a month. Also we make Otter Smit, of Halberstadt, and Allert Jansz, of Elsen, both ensigns, for their faithful help to Webbye Hays, corporals on a pay of fifteen guilders a month.

Given under our hand on the island "Batavia's Grave" at the above date and signed.

Francois Pelsaert
Claes Gerritsz
Symen Jobsz
Jacob Horstenman
Jacob Jansz
Jan Willemsz

Here follows, to throw still further light on the occurrences among these wicked murderers on the island, the verbal examination and free confession of Jerome

The Abrolhos Tragedy (Figure 12).jpg

Cornelisz in its daily progress since his imprisonment, until the sentence of death had been pronounced on him and his accomplices.

Today, the 17th of September, 1629, in the afternoon, the Commodore, Francois Pelsaert, and his ship's council have resolved to examine, and if necessary to put to the torture, Jerome Cornelisz, chemist, of Haarlem, late supercargo on the ship-wrecked vessel Batavia, now imprisoned on board on account of the horrible misdeeds committed by him.


Jerome Cornelisz, having been led in, was asked why he had allowed the Devil to divest him of all human feeling and to tempt him till he had become worse than a tiger, why he had shed so much innocent human blood, and had nourished the intention of shedding ours also. To which he replied that it was not all his fault. It was David Seevanck, Gisbert van Welderen, and Coenraldt van Huyssen who had done most of it, and forced him to it, threatening to kill him. He begged to receive a hearing to be able to prove his innocence, having been charged to give a truthful

account of all that had happened from the beginning.

He said that ten days after the wreck he had still been on board the vessel, though it was mostly broken to pieces by that time. For two day he had been on the bow sprit mast, and finally floated ashore on a portion of the bowsprit, together with three casks of water, wine, and vinegar, having been on the island about a month. David van Seevanck, Coenraldt van Huyssen, ensign, and twelve others had armed themselves in their tent, and coming in to him one evening between 10 and 11 o'clock, they had said, "There are too many people and there is too little food; we intend to surprise the people in their tents, and to reduce the number to 40". Jerome Comelisz had then begged of them not to do this, and suggested that they should send the people to the high island to look for the 20 who had been sent out for fresh water; but they would hardly listen to it. Still at his earnest intercession they were moved to send some of them there. Seventeen days after this David van Seevanck had gone with a longboat full of them to an island, where some of those people were by themselves. He had surprised them with his mates and killed them all except seven boys and some women. On his return he had told Jerome Cornelisz what he had done, adding that he wished those on the high island were disposed of also, so that they might not have to fear any danger on that side. Seven or eight days later they had again come to Jerome, telling him that they wished to go across to fight the remaining people on the high island, the more as Pieter Lambertsz, a boatswain's mate, had saved himself thither in a just built little boat. They wished to bring this boat back and, if possible, to kill all the people. For this project they had selected twenty-two men. Jerome had said that this plan did not please him. He had begged of them, so he related, to prepare a boat or a shallop to sail to the mainland, and then to India. This they had considered impossible, and, carrying out their own resolution, they had gone across with the twenty-two men. On their return, he (Jerome Cornelisz) had once more begged of them to rig out a vessel, but all in vain. They had again started, this time with three boats and thirty-seven men. On this occasion Jerome had joined them himself, as he said, in order to prevent the fighting as much as possible by his presence. They had gone straight to the island, but the others had defended their shore well, standing up to their knees in water. Meanwhile Jerome had tried to speak to those on the island in order to come to an agreement if possible. In consequence of this, through the intermediation of the parson, who went backward and forward between the two parties, the fighting had been discontinued for that day, Jerome and his side had promised to bring across some of the material the next day, so that those on the high island might clothe themselves properly; on the other hand, they would be repossessed of the little boat. Jerome's people had by no means been pleased with the treaty, and in their anger they had decided to continue the fight. Coenraldt van Huyssen had declared that he would send his men to battle in spite of anyone, but Jerome, according to the agreement, had gone across with the promised material with some others, in all six people, namely, David van Seevanck, Coenraldt van Huyssen, Gijsbert van Welderen, Wouter Loos, and Cornelis Pietersz, of Utrecht, four of whom had been killed in an ensuing fray, whilst Wouter Loos had escaped and he, Jerome Cornelisz, had remained a prisoner.

The Commodore proposed to put Jerome Comelisz to the torture, in order to obtain the real truth from him, since he is trying to exculpate himself before the council with plausible stories, putting all his own guilt on people who are dead, and therefore cannot answer for themselves.

Jerome Cornelisz being bound and pulled up, and feeling the pain, prayed for a surcease, being willing to confess whatever he knew of that which they would ask him. His request was conceded, and the examination resumed. The Commodore then asked him why and in what manner he had intended to seize the yacht. He related that at the time when the 22 men were at the high island fighting, and he had gone to bring them back, David van Seevanck, with him in the longboat, had told him a dream of the ensign Lucas Gillisz, to the effect that a yacht had come which they found it necessary to seize in order to sail therein to Spain or some other place, and they had resolved to do so.

He was further asked in what manner he had intended carry out this intention. He answered that if a yacht had come they would have induced the crew to come ashore in a boat and made them drunk, in order to kill them the more easily; thus they would undoubtedly have captured the yacht. He said that when this plot had been made the others had wished to see the company's jewels; in order to value what would be everyone's share, he had opened the case and shown them these.

On the previous day, the 18th of September, while Jerome Cornelisz and the soldier, Jan Heyndricksz, were locked up together in the hold of the yacht Sardam, and the boatswain, Jan Willemsz, of Dort (Dortrecht) was lying just above them, the latter had overheard Jerome Cornelisz asking Jan Heyndricksz why on the morning of the 17th, when they were about to fight those of the yacht, they had not captured the Commodore's boat, and why their muskets had not fired; had their powder been wet? Whereupon Jay Heyndricksz had answered, "If we could have fired a musket, we should have captured the boat for a certainty; but the powder burnt away in the touchhole three or four times". Jerome then had said, "If you had used cunning you would easily have conquered while on the water, and then we should have been all right". Jerome and Jan Heyndricksz being confronted with this statement, confessed it to be correct.

To-day, the
19th Sep-
tember, on
the island

Jerome Cornelisz, being bound to be put to the torture, begged for a surcease, promising to speak the truth about all that he knew. The Commodore then asked him why he had tried to persuade Skipper Adriaen Jacobsz, to seize the ship Batavia. He denied having done this, protesting that he had not even known of such a plot; he seemed anxious however to relate at length the origin of his unruly life.

When he had set sail from Sierra Leone, he had noticed that the Skipper had become very familiar with Lucretia. He had reproved him for this, and asked him what his intentions were with the woman. The Skipper had answered that her skin was beautiful and fair, and that he wished to make her comply with his desires, and that he intended to tempt her with gold or other means. A short time after this he, the aforesaid Jerome, had again spoken to the Skipper, asking him why he was not so familiar with Lucretia now, but seemed to have taken a fancy again to Swaantje*.

The Skipper had answered that the cook's wife had said the woman was a loose woman, and moreover Swaantje liked him to talk to her and while away the time with her. When they had reached the Cape, and the Commodore had gone ashore Jerome Cornellsz had entered the cabin and unexpectedly opening the door in the passage he had found the Skipper and Swaantje together, wherefore, going away, he had closed the door. Two days after, the Commodore went ashore again in order to get cattle inland. Thereupon the Skipper had likewise started for the land, taking Gerome and Swaantje with him. They had enjoyed themselves till the evening, when they went to the yacht Assendelft, where the Skipper behaved in a very reckiess manner. In the night they had gone to the ship Buren, where he became worse, and at midnight they had returned on board. The next day the Commodore had called him into the gangway, and reprimanded him on the score of his reckless behaviour, especially in the act of taking Jerome and Swaantje ashore without consent. His chief had told him, among several other kind exhortations, that if he did not refrain from his improper proceedings measures would have to be taken to check him. When the Skipper had come upstairs again he had said to Jerome, "By God, if the other ships were not close by I'd give him such a hiding that he would not be able to leave his bunk for a fortnight; but I swear that as soon as we sail I'll get away from the ships and then I'll be my own master". To which Jerome had asked, "How would you manage that? The mates will be on the watch also". To which he replied, "That's nothing. I'll manage it during my own watch, for I haven't much faith in the first steersman, and less still in my brother-in-law. I don't think I could come to an understanding with them".

The Commodore asked him further when he and his counsellors had resolved to seize the vessel, but he protested absolute ignorance on this point. He was, therefore, once more put to the torture and some water already poured into his mouth, when he promised to obey, and to tell what he knew. He had heard for the first time of a plot to seize the vessel Batavia on the day of the shipwreck, and this publicly from the lips of one Rijckert Woutersz, at the time when the Commodore and the Skipper went to the mainland in the longboat. If the ship had not remained a wreck, they would soon have seized her and thrown the Commodore and all the people except one hundred and twenty overboard. They were only waiting for a good opportunity, which they thought would occur when the Commodore would be occupied putting those in irons who had interfered with Lucretia. They would then first of all set sail to Madagascar or Saint Helena. He had also, he said, heard all this from Coenraldt van Huyssen, and moreover that the latter, when the aforesaid person would be punished or put in irons, would be the first to rush into the cabin with a sword, and to throw the Commodore overboard. He was again asked whether he had no knowledge of this before the ship had foundered, and answered in the negative. But when orders were once more given to continue with the torture, he prayed again to be confronted with some of his accusers, which was granted. Jans Hendricks, soldier, was called, and asked whether he was also one of the conspirators, who had planned to seize the vessel. He answered that he knew nothing of the conspiracy, neither had he known of it on board, but after the ship had foundered he had heard from divers people, now dead, that such a plot existed between the Skipper, Jerome, the boatswain, Rijckert Woutersz, Allert Jansz, of Assendelft, Cornelis Jansz, of Haarlem, surnamed Boontjen*, Gijabert van Welderen, Coenraldt van Huyssen, and ten or twelve others. The idea had been first to nail down the trap door of the soldiers' berths, and then to get the mastery of the ship. Allert Jansz, of Assendelft, was undoubtedly one of the accomplices.

Allert Jansz, of Assendelft, was called and freely examined as to the manner in which they had intended to seize the vessel and who it was that had induced them to it. He answered that he knew nothing of this, but that he had heard Jerome say, when ashore, that they were inclined to do it and that some of the men had their swords ready in their bunks. He would confess nothing further. Then being put to the torture, he still maintained that he had not known of the plot.

When the torture had commenced he begged to be let free, and he would con-

* Little Bean * Swanny

page 9

fess the truth. He said that Jerome had come to him on board, persuading him to take part in the seizure of the vessel, but he had neither answered yes or no. When a little more water had been poured into his mouth, he confessed that the boatswain, Jacob Pietersz Steenhouwer, and he, and several others had swords in their bunks for this purpose. Being further threatened, he confessed that the Skipper had been the chief, that they had numbered ten or twelve, and that the mutiny was to have taken place during the night. The idea had been to nail down the trap door, and in this manner to carry out their design the more easily.

Jerome Cornelisz was then again led into the tent and bound to be tortured, as it seemed difficult to obtain the real truth from his lips. He then was asked whether he had not tried to induce Allert Jansz, of Assendeift, to join them. He confessed that this was true, but the Skipper had ordered him, and tempted him to it. He was further asked why the Skipper had been so embittered against the Commodore. He said he did not know, and that he had wondered why the Commodore liked the Skipper, and put up with so much from him. The Skipper, however, had told him that he had begun to hate the Commodore in Surat, when they were on the voyage home. One evening he had been insubordinate in language, and Capt Grijp, and the second merchant Wolebrant Geleynsz had reproved him, saying that this was not the right way to return homeward in peace; he should not treat the Commodore like this, or should at least dissemble a little for their sake. Jerome, when he had heard this, had asked the Skipper if it was only hatred that prompted him, whether he had not better throw the Commodore overboard secretly; they would then not have caused such loss to their lords and masters, nor killed so many innocent people. But the Skipper had answered that it was not only out of hatred of the Commodore, but also for their common advantage; the mates could not gain much profit in India, and with the vessel he thought he could do quite a deal. When Jerome had furthermore asked him whether he saw no risk in the enterprise, and whether he thought he could carry it out, the Skipper had answered, "Let me have my way. I'll manage it. I am pretty sure of my cousin from the Schie*, but I have little faith in my brother-in-law, the second mate, or in the first mate either".

Jerome being still further examined, was asked when they had intended to carry out the plot. His answer was, as soon as the Commodore would have put the men in irons on account of the occurrence with Lucretia. When he was asked whether the Company and the Commodore had deserved this from him, he said, "No. On the contrary, he had been treated with more honour and kindness than he merited; but the Skipper had tempted him to it, speaking to him of the riches they would gain, and saying, ‘I shall go to the devil anyhow. If I reach India I shall get into trouble whether or no'."

After a further examination, he was again asked why he had set it about among the people that the Commodore in leaving the vessel had ordered him to try and reduce the number of those who were rescued to forty. He denied having received this order from the Commodore, but David van Seevanck had thought it necessary to make the people believe this.

He also confessed that he, David van Seevanck, and Lucas Gillisz, had resolved among themselves to seize the first yacht that would come to their rescue, and sail to Spain or thereabouts, for none of them doubted that the Skipper would have thrown the Commodore overboard, into the sea and gone with the boat to Malacca, where he would obtain a yacht in order to save the people and the money; or if he dared go to Batavia, they did not doubt that the Lord General would give him a yacht wherewith to find the ship and the people, and in that case they would be ready.

Being asked why he had ordered Mr. Frans Janz of Hoorn, the chief barber, to be killed a short time ago, he answered because he had stood in the way of David van Seevanck, and had not wished to dance to all their tunes, so that they had not much confidence in him. Being asked who had been the most innocent and least culpable among them, he said, Jacques Pelman, Jeuriaen Jansz, of Bremen, both boatswain's mates; Reynert Hendricksz, of Barckloft, butler; Abraham Jansz, of Amsterdam, and Jans Willemsz Selijus, of Amsterdam, cooper. He also declared that the council had consisted of the following four men: He (Jerome Cornelisz), Coenraldt van Huyssen, David van Seevanck, and Jacob Pietersz Steenhouwer; and whenever it had been resolved among them to kill anyone it was immediately carried out. Further, that in order to take away all mistrust among themselves they had taken the oath of fidelity. Whoever had been comprised in this pact and signed it had been spared.

* The river on which Schiedam is situated

The document may be read in the preceding pages.

Further Ex-
Sept. 22,
1629 on the

Jerome Cornelisz, being again led in, was asked whether he had consented to the seizure of the vessel, and whether the Skipper had persuaded him to it. He said he had given no advice on the matter, but the Skipper had persuaded him to it. Being also asked whether, if a yacht had come, and it had been in their power they would really have seized it, he confessed that they would decidedly have done so if they could have overpowered the other people on the island, which they were daily trying to do, apprehending that the others would give warning to any yacht that came. He further confessed, in the presence of Jan Hendricksz, that when Nicolaes Winkelhaeck, Paulus Barensz, Bessel Jansz, of Harderwijck, and Claes Harmansz of Madeburgh had fled from the water where they thought to kill them, to the tent of Jerome, he had

The Abrolhos Tragedy (Figure 13).jpg

ordered Jan Hendricksz, saying "Go and kill them", which the latter had done.

He had also said, when the minister's people were killed, "The parson won't live long either". Further, when the sick people were killed, he, Jerome Cornelisz, together with Gijsbert van Welderen and Coenraldt van Huyssen, had taken Adries de Vries and led him to the huts of all the sick people, eleven in number, ordering him to cut their throats, which the latter had done.

Also, when Cornelisz Pietersz, of Utrecht, had cut the throat of the carpenter's assistant, Hendrick Claesz, this had been in the presence of Jerome.

He was further accused in the presence of Allert Jansz of Assendelft, that when he had ordered the latter to cut the throat of Andries de Bruyn, the cabin-boy, he had first sent the lad to catch some birds, and then Assendelft to follow him, in which manner the deed had been done.

When the whole account of these examinations and confessions had been read to Jerome Cornelisz he was asked whether it was in accordance with the truth. He then declared freely and with-

The Abrolhos Tragedy (Figure 14).jpg

out torture that everything had happened, as related.

Lenaert Michielsz, ensign, being examined in the presence of Jerome Cornelisz, confessed freely and without torture, that he had been sent on a craft by Jerome Comelisz, together with David van Seevanck and Matthijs Bayer, to the island of the traitors, in order to go and drown there Andries Liebent, Hendrick Jansz, of Oldenburg (alias Masken), Thomas Weichel, of Copenhagen, a boatswain's mate, and Jan Cornelisz Amesvoort. This had been carried out, except that Lenaert Michielsz had obtained pardon for Andries Liebent. Jerome confessed this to be true.

He also confessed that he had sent the aforesaid Lenaert Michielsz, together with Cornelis Pietersz, of Utrecht, to call Hans Jacobsz, Jan Hendricksz, and Mr. Francis, the barber, out of their tents, ordering them to go with David van Seevanck, and Coenraldt van Huyssen in the little boat to Seal's Island in order to kill all the people there, which they did, except 17 persons who were let off.

Further, he, Jerome, had called Laenert Michielsz, Jan Hendricksz and Rutgert Fredericksz into his tent, giving them swords to kill the assistant, Andries de Vries, which they did.

Moreover, he confessed that when he had decided to kill the minister's family he had handed some food to Coenraldt van Huyssen, telling him to invite the minister, his daughter, and himself, Jerome, to take a meal with him; that in the afternoon he had sent for Laenert Michielsz, Jacob Pietersz, Jan Hendricksz, Wouter Loos, Andries Jonas and .Andries Liebent, telling them that in the evening he would be dining in Coenraldt van Huyssen's tent, and during that time he wanted them to kill the minister's family; all this had been thus carried out.

He also confessed that on the night of the 12th July he had caused the aforesaid Lenaert Michielsz, together with Luycas Jelisz and Jan Hendricksz, to be called out of their tents, ordering them to go and cut the throats of Passihier van den Enden, musketeer, Jacob Heynoricksz, carpenter, and a sick boy. This order they had carried out.

On the morning of the 6th August he had been in the tent of David van See- vanck, and called to him Jan Hendricksz, giving him the dagger which he carried about him all day, saying, "Go and cut out the heart of Stoffel Stoffelsz, that lazy lout, who stands there working as if his back was broken". This Jan Hendricksz had done.

He confessed that on the 16th of August he had given his sword to Jan van Bommel, saying, "Go and try whether it is sharp enough; cut off the head of Coen Aldertsz, of Ilpendam (hooplooper) with it". But as Jan van Bommel was not quite strong enough for this, Matthijs Beyer cut off Aldertsz's head in Jerome's presence.

Finally he confessed that, though he was a married man, he had nevertheless taken Lucretia Jansz, the wife of Boudewijn van der Mylen, into his tent, keeping her for two months against her will.

On the 24th September Jerome Cornelisz, being present at the examination of Rogier Decker, of Haarlem, formerly cabin waiter on the shipwrecked vessel Batavia, confessed that he had called the said Rogier Decker into his tent on the 25th July, giving him a cup of wine, and at the same time handing his dagger to him, with the words, "Go outside and stab Hendrik Jansz, of Purmerant, to the heart". This order the said Rogier had carried out.

On the 28th September, since Lucas Jelisz of the Hague, ensign, according to the above confessions of Jerome Cornelisz, had also been concerned in the murder of Passchier van den Enden, he was likewise questioned on this point. He confessed in the presence of Jerome that by Jerome's order David van Seevanck had commanded him together with Laenert Michielsz and Jan Hendricksz, to kill Passchier van den Enden, musketeer, and Jacob Heyndricksz, carpenter. Coming at the tent, Jan Hendricksz had rushed inside, and cut Passchier's throat, but Jacob Heyndricksz they had only ordered to remain in his tent. Then David van Seevanck had gone to Jerome, saying "Jacob Heyndricksz is a good carpenter; let him live". But Jerome had answered, "He is nothing but a turncoat and quite unreliable. He will only tell on us some day; he must be put out of the way". To prove the truth of this, Lenaert Michielsz and Jan Heyndreicksz (who were called in for the purpose) affirmed the statement on the salva- ation of their souls, saying that they would die if it were not so. But Jerome denied it calling it a lie. He recalled at the same time all that he had so far confessed, saying that it had been wrung from him by the threat of torture.

On account of his unreliableness and contradictory confessions, trying by all the resources of his subtle mind to give the lie to those who accused and convicted him in his presence, he was again, and now for the last time, threatened with torture and asked why he mocked us in this manner. Had he not, on different previous occasions without torture confessed everything — the origin and circumstances of the plot to seize the vessel Batavia, as well as the horrors that had afterwards occurred. Thereupon he declared again that all he had confessed was the real truth; but that he had constantly retracted his words in order to gain delay, hoping that they would take him to Batavia, as he longed to see his wife once more. He knew well enough, he said, that he had done much wrong, and he craved no mercy for it. Jan Hendricksz and Allert Jansz, of Assendelft, volunteered the information that one evening Jerome Cornelisz had asked them to dinner, and told them, among other things, that if the ship had not been wrecked they would have seized it a few days after. The chief persons in the plot had been the skipper, Jerome Cornelisz, the boatswain, Coenraldt van Huyssen, and others. They would have nailed down the trap-door of the soldiers' berths. Jerome having been confronted with this statement, confirmed its truth.

On the afternoon of that same day the Commodore read out the whole account of the examination and confession publicly before all the people on the island, in the presence of Jerome Cornelisz, and asked him whether it was in accordance with the truth. He answered that there were certain statements in it by Allert Jansz, of Assendeift; Jan Hendricksz, and others which contained unfounded accusations against him. Then the Commodore once more protested before God to the prisoners there present, that if they were to aggravate Jerome Cornelisz's guilt in the least degree, they would have to answer for it on the day of judgment before the throne of the Almighty. The prisoners thereupon spoke out unanimously, and exclaimed that they had not aggravated his guilt in any way whatsoever. If they had, they were willing to burden their own salvation with it; they would die for it and answer for it on the day of judgment before the throne of the Almighty. Wherefore the Commodore addressed Jerome for the last time, asking him why he mocked the council with his unpardonable vacillations, speaking the truth one moment and denying it the next. He then finally replied that he had only done this to lengthen his life; but he had done enough wrong, and could not escape his punishment.

There follows another confession in aggravation of the charges against Jerome Cornelisz aforesaid:

We, the undersigned, Webbye Hayes, of Winschoten, sergeant; Claes Jansz Hooft of Ditmarssen, trumpeter; Allert Jansz, corporal; and Jan Kastensen, of Tonninge, musketeer, attest and testify on our manly truthfulness, that we have seen with our eyes and heard with our sober ears, today, the 2nd October, 1629, that Lucretia Jans, the widow of Boudewijn van der Mylen, one hour before Jerome Cornelisz was to be executed for his great misdeeds, bitterly lamented to the said Jerome over the sins he had committed with her against her will, and, forcing her thereto. To which Jerome replied, "It is true, you are not to blame for it; for you were in my tent for twelve days before I could succeed". He continued further relating how in the end he had complained to David van Seevanck that he could not accomplish his ends either with kindness or anger. Seevanck had answered, "And don't you know how to manage that? I'll soon make her do it". He had then gone into the tent and said to Lucretia, "I hear complaints about you". "On what account?" she asked. "Because you do not comply with the Captain's wishes in kindness; now, however, you will have to make up your mind, either you will go the same way as Wybrecht Claes, or else you must do that for which we have kept the women". Through this threat Lucretia had to consent that day, and thus he had her as his concubine for the time of two months. In sign of the truth we have heard every one of the above words from the lips of Jerome Comelisz and in the presence of several witnesses, we have put our ordinary signature to this. And we shall be at all times prepared, if it should be required,to confirm it with our solemn oath. Actum on the island, "Batavia's Churchyard", near the wreck of the foundered vessel Batavia. page 10

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1936, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 75 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.


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