Batavia's Graveyard Paperback
by Mike Dash
When the Dutch East Indiaman Batavia struck an uncharted reef off the new continent of Australia on her maiden voyage in 1629, 332 men, women and children were on board.
While some headed off in a lifeboat to seek help, 250 of the survivors ended up on a tiny coral island less than half a mile long.
A band of mutineers, whose motives were almost beyond comprehension, then started on a cold-blooded killing spree, leaving fewer than 80 people alive when the rescue boat arrived three months later.
BATAVIA'S GRAVEYARD tells this strange story as a gripping narrative structured around three strong principal characters: Francisco Pelsaert, the cultivated but weak-willed captain; Jeronimus Cornelisz, a sinister apothecary with a terrifying personal philosophy influenced by Rosicrucianism who set himself up as the ruler of the island; and Wiebbe Hayes, the only survivor with the courage to fight Jeronimus's band. The background to these events, including the story of the Dutch East India Company, and the discovery of Australia, is richly drawn.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 416 pages, 3 maps
- Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
- Publication Date: 03/04/2003
- Category: General & world history
- ISBN: 9780753816844
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Review by uryjm
If I ever wonder what life was like on a seventeenth century ship bound for the Far East, then this is the book to consult. Serious history, but written to be read instead of consulted, Batavia's Graveyard makes a time, a place and a cast of characters come alive off the page. The story, as it unfolds, becomes harrowing and somewhat depressing, as a community of shipwrecked survivors descend into a true life "Lord of the Flies". It's also a gripping narrative, and could as easily slot into a "True Crime" tagging as an "Historical" one. I often feel let down by historical accounts that promise to read like a best-selling thriller, but this book really does, serving both to educate and entertain as you plough through it.