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Batavia's Graveyard: The True Story of the…

Batavia's Graveyard: The True Story of the Mad Heretic Who Led History's…

by Mike Dash

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Ever wondered what would happen if a ship was wrecked in the middle of the ocean, the survivors abandoned on a barren rock, and a leader stepped forward that had secret and very unconventional religious beliefs?


To be honest neither had I. But this is exactly what happened to the crew and passengers of the Dutch ship Batavia in 1629 just off the Australian coast. With the ship stricken and the captain and senior crew gone for help, the remaining survivors are shepherded onto an outcrop of coral rock, with no food or fresh water. Jeronimus Cornelisz (an apothecary) is amongst these refugees and soon begins to take control. While many people of this time were God fearing, Cornelisz proved the exception to the rule. Preferring to follow his own twisted branch of religion he felt that a man could be absolved of any wickedness on earth as surely all our actions are controlled through a higher power. This warped view leaves us a man with barely a conscience for his acts as displayed in his treatment towards his fellow castaways.

I won't go into the events that happened upon Batavia's Graveyard but it really does give an eye opener into life on board a ship in the 17th century. Mike Dash has really done his research here and I am surprised at just how much information he has managed to cram into the book without it turning into an essay.

My one and only criticism of the book is that the last quarter is made up of notes that relate to the preceding text. This meant that they were a little disjointed and I didn't really want to read through them. I would have much preferred these to have been included as footnotes on the actual pages they relate to. This way the text would have been far more enriched. ( )
1 vote Bridgey | Oct 9, 2014 |
A no-holds-barred account of the chillingly brutal aftermath of a 1628 shipwreck on a reef fifty miles off the coast of what is now known as Australia. Dash explores the nastiness in great detail, and aside from a few speculative leaps at various points, this makes for riveting reading.

My one quibble is that the (very) extensive notes are not indicated in the text. ( )
  JBD1 | Feb 28, 2014 |
Boeiend geschreven. Soms wat saai, maar gortdroge opsommingen ontbreken. Veel noten en andere zaken. Goed om wat te lezen over de Batavia. Geen roman, toch goed te lezen ( )
  EdwinK | Dec 6, 2013 |
"We have just come out of such a sorrow that the mind is still a little confused." -- Gijsbert Bastiaensz




What do the two have in common?

If I were asked that before I read this book, I’d be glib and respond with something like “trajectory.” But no. I’ve learned it’s something called antinomianism.

If you don’t know what that means, don’t get discouraged. I didn’t either. Not right away, at least. Oh, I’m sure I’d read it before somewhere, probably years ago when I was knee-deep in Karen Armstrong and had a more particular interest in the monotheistic religions that have informed civilizations for thousands of years. But, as the irreligious say, I’ve slept since then.

Before I get to antinomianism, though, let me tell you a story. When I was a kid, I knew this other kid. We shall call him Sicko, so as to preserve his anonymity. Sicko was the first person my age I met upon moving to a new town. With adolescence looming, I was overjoyed to find myself just a few houses away from a fellow pre-teen traveler. But it soon dawned on me that age, gender and geography were poor rationales for friendship -- the two of us were completely different. I was an awkward and shy kid, but nevertheless independent, an only child who had just the year before lived in a single-parent home in Los Angeles County; contrariwise, Sicko was athletic and confident, yet oddly deferential, having been home schooled and subjected his entire life to a severely patrician Christian orthodoxy.

When my family moved again, this time within the town, Sicko and I lost touch. It wouldn't be until we were both nineteen that we found ourselves in the same social circles. By this time, Sicko's family had moved to Alaska, leaving him the solitary occupant of their 2400 square foot home. He extended an invitation to me to roommate with him and I quickly accepted. Over the next few months, I saw firsthand how manipulative and slyly sadistic he had become. Especially toward women. Sicko was a handsome guy, much more handsome than me, and there were young women at the house on various occasions. Most, however, never visited more than once. Then one night I had to rescue one of those young women from Sicko when she called out my name in distress. Soon after this incident, I moved out. I wouldn't see Sicko again for several years, whereupon I learned that he worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative, had married into a fairly prominent banking family and had developed a taste for bestiality films.

What's that saying about water seeking its own level?

Anyway, antinomianism. It is defined by wikipedia.org as "belief originating in Christian theology that faith alone, not obedience to religious law, is necessary for salvation." Jernonimus Cornelisz, the fellow at the center of this story of bloody mutiny, took this to mean that he wasn't bound by the same laws as other homo sapiens. He aspired to a life of piracy and manipulated several people into committing all manner of atrocity, the most chilling being the hanging of an infant. Then he was butchered and himself hanged.

I give this book five stars because it is meticulously researched, very well-written, and because I will remember the name Batavia for the rest of my life.

If you'd like to read more about the actual mutiny itself, the information available on Wikipedia is not contradicted by the book.
( )
1 vote KidSisyphus | Apr 5, 2013 |
After reading this book, I think that under favorable circumstances, height of human cruelty could far surpass the physical height of Olympus Mons. Twice.

Because if not for the hyperinflation and the Versailles treaty, Adolf Hitler would have been a shitty painter and Hermann Göring would have been an exceptionally shitty ballet dancer.

But I never felt more confident about my assumptions (although they were derived after many complicated calculations and permutations) until I read Mike Dash's [b:Batavia's Graveyard: The True Story of the Mad Heretic Who Led History's Bloodiest Mutiny|128824|Batavia's Graveyard The True Story of the Mad Heretic Who Led History's Bloodiest Mutiny|Mike Dash|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320528804s/128824.jpg|124075].

**Minor Spoilers Ahead**

Batavia was a ship of the Dutch East India Company built in 1628 to procure spices from the East and as was the kind-of norm in the era, it was shipwrecked on her maiden voyage.

But what made this incident different from others was the horror that followed owing to the mutiny and massacre that took place amongst the survivors stranded on the reefs of Abrolhos Islands off the coast of Western Australia.

Batavia sailed under commandeur and upper-merchant Francisco Pelsaert and was captained by Ariaen Jacobsz. But the main villain of this tragedy was one frustrated under-merchant (working under upper-merchant Francisco Pelsaert), Jeronimus Cornelisz, who was a bankrupt apothecary (pharmacist) from the Netherlands who had left his wife behind forever in the Netherlands in order to escape from his creditors and find himself a comfortable life somewhere in the East, by any means. But what made Cornelisz truly dangerous was his mad belief in antinomianism: the theological doctrine that by faith and God's grace a Christian is freed from all laws (including the moral standards of the culture). Even murder. Or rape.

Mike Dash has provided detailed and interesting background information on all the major characters which mainly includes Francisco Pelsaert, Ariaen Jacobsz and Jeronimus Cornelisz. The book could be considered to be divided in two major parts. The shipwrecking is described in the first chapter and then Mike Dash delineates the chain of events that eventually led to Batavia's doom. The second half deals with the massacre committed by Cornelisz and his fellow mutineers on the islands and its aftermath.

There was some previous history between Francisco Pelsaert and the captain of Batavia, Ariaen Jacobsz who had previously encountered each other in Surat, India. The encounter had left a bitter taste in the mouth for Ariaen Jacobsz as he was publicly reprimanded, and that too quite sternly by Francisco Pelsaert regarding disciplinary issues.

So during the voyage, Jacobsz and Cornelisz (driven by his greed and beliefs) conceived a plan to take the ship by mutiny, which would allow them to start a new life as the ship contained lots of silver and moreover they also decided to get more rich by becoming pirates.

Jacobsz deliberately steered the ship off course, away from the rest of the fleet (There were more than half a dozen ships with the “Batavia”). The ship struck Morning Reef, part of the Abrolhos islands off the Western Australian coast. Of the 322 passengers aboard, 40 people drowned in the initial disaster. They were luckier than those who were to die on the islands. The survivors were transferred to nearby islands which contained no fresh water and only very limited food in form of birds and some sea-lions.

No rescue was coming as they were way off course, so Captain Jacobsz alongwith Francisco Pelsaert, senior officers, a few crewmembers, and some passengers left the wreck site in a longboat, and headed north to the city of Batavia (Jakarta). This journey, which they completed successfully, was a feat in itself.

But on the other hand, in the absence of his two superiors, Jeronimus Cornelisz was left in charge of the survivors. He was afraid that Pelsaert might discover his mutinous plans. Therefore, he made plans to hijack any rescue ship that might return and use the vessel to seek another safe haven.

With a dedicated band of murderous young men, he began to systematically (at first) kill anyone he believed would be a problem to his reign of terror, or a burden on their limited resources. The mutineers became intoxicated with killing, and no one could stop them which led to a splurge of random killings.

But Cornelisz had also left some soldiers on another island who were led by one Wiebbe Hayes, and to their good fortune, they had found abundant sources of water and food on the other island. With his own supply dwindling, Cornelisz decided to take over Hayes’ island (by killing everyone there, of course).

The events that ensued were nothing sort of dramatic, so I am not going to ruin it for anyone. But the naked truth is that that of the original 341 people on board the Batavia, only 68 made it safely to the port of Batavia (Jakarta).

So know this, although this book is well written, I am not recommending it for everyone as the second half is extremely graphic and gruesome. You will have to decide for yourself on this one. ( )
  Veeralpadhiar | Mar 31, 2013 |
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The moon rose at dusk on the evening of 3 June 1629, sending soft grey shafts of light skittering across the giant swells of the eastern Indian Ocean.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0609807161, Paperback)

In 1629, the Dutch merchantman Batavia grounded on a desolate atoll near Western Australia. Of the 200 survivors, 115 were subsequently murdered, in coldest blood, by a group of the ship's sailors and their psychopathic leader, Jeronimus Corneliszoon. Batavia's Graveyard is Mike Dash's unnerving, measured account of the incident. The victims included children, babies, and pregnant women; the crimes took place over a period of several months. Though the killings make a substantial, chilling tale in themselves, Dash adroitly places the shocking spree in larger context with illuminating discussions of 17th century medical practices, religious heresy, global politics, and shipboard sociology and daily life. Additionally, he draws dozens of portraits of the participants in this ghastly drama, most fascinatingly that of Corneliszoon, who emerges as a grotesquely charismatic predecessor of the likes of Charles Manson and Ted Bundy. Batavia's Graveyard, a skillful melding of accessible scholarship and evenhanded narrative and of overview and telling detail, is a welcome achievement. --H. O'Billovitch

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:45 -0400)

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"It was the autumn of 1628, and the Batavia, the Dutch East India Company's flagship, was loaded with a king's ransom in gold, silver, and gems for her maiden voyage to Java. The Batavia was the pride of the Company's fleet, a tangible symbol of the world's richest and most powerful commercial monopoly. She set sail with great fanfare, but the Batavia and her gold would never reach Java, for the Company had also sent along a new employee, Jeronimus Corneliszoon, a bankrupt and disgraced man who possessed disarming charisma and dangerously heretical ideas." "With the help of a few disgruntled sailors, Jeronimus soon sparked a mutiny that seemed certain to succeed - but for one unplanned event. In the dark morning hours of June 3, the Batavia smashed through a coral reef and ran aground on a small chain of islands near Australia. The commander of the ship and the skipper evaded the mutineers by escaping in a tiny lifeboat and setting a course for Java - some 1,800 miles north - to summon help. Nearly all of the passengers survived the wreck and found themselves trapped on a bleak coral island without water, food, or shelter. Leaderless, unarmed, and unaware of Jeronimus's treachery, they were at the mercy of the mutineers." "Jeronimus took control almost immediately, preaching his own twisted version of heresy he'd learned in Holland's secret Anabaptist societies. More than 100 people died at his command in the months that followed. Before long, an all-out war erupted between the mutineers and a small group of soldiers led by Wiebbe Hayes, the one man brave enough to challenge Jeronimus's band of butchers." "Unluckily for the mutineers, the Batavia's commander had raised the alarm in Java, and at the height of the violence the Company's gunboats sailed over the horizon. Jeronimus and his mutineers would meet an end almost as gruesome as that of the innocents whose blood had run on the small island they called Batavia's Graveyard."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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