On the 4th of June 1629, the Dutch East India Company trading ship Batavia ran aground on the Abrolhos Islands off the coast of what is now Western Australia. Even before the wreck, conflicts between the Batavia’s crew members had made the ship a powder keg of suspicion and factional division. When the ship hit the reef, the powder keg exploded, and propelled the more than 300 men, women, and children of the Batavia into a nearly three-month-long nightmare of rape, mutiny, and murder.
The Batavia ordeal was a brutal and complicated affair that ended in the deaths of at least 110 passengers at the hands of nearly 30 mutineers. Eventually, the massacre was brought to a halt and most of the murderers met their fate at the gallows. Two of the mutineers, Wouter Looes and Jan Pelgrome de Bye, avoided execution and were instead exiled to the Australian mainland.
Some scientists and historians believe that Looes and Pelgrome de Bye found new lives—and new families—in Western Australia. The evidence, they say, can be seen in the light complexions of the local Aborigine population, and in a handful of Dutch-sounding words in the local language.
This August, the Empire project draws to its close with a final shoot in Western Australia. Stay with us for the next month as we travel to the other side of the earth and explore the outer reaches of the Dutch colonial empire.
Image: Plate 3 from the book “The Unlucky Voyage of the Ship Batavia,” artist unknown