The Batavia Story

On 4 June 1629 the Batavia was shipwrecked on Morning Reef in the Wallabi Group of the Houtman Abrolhos islands. Commander Francisco Pelsaert and select crew set off in the ship’s longboat to seek help and those left endured one of the most horrific mutinies in history. The Museum of Geraldton is an excellent introduction to the story of the Batavia. You can enjoy a guided tour and view displays of original artefacts from this shipwreck and other early Dutch wrecks in the region, including the impressive sandstone portico transported as ballast in the hull of the Batavia.

The Batavia (ba:’ta:via) was the flagship of the Dutch East India Company fleet and left Holland on its maiden voyage 27 October 1628 en route to the East Indies to obtain spices. The ship was under the command of Pelsaert with Adriaan Jacobsz as skipper. Also on board was Jeronimus Cornelisz, who conceived a plan with Jacobsz to take the ship with all its gold, silver and supplies. After Jacobsz deliberately steered the ship off course it was eventually shipwrecked at Morning Reef near Beacon Island.

Abrolhos Islands

The survivors, including women and children, were transferred to nearby islands. With no food or water Pelsaert decided to gather a group and head for the mainland. After an unsuccessful search for water they headed north to Batavia (now known as Jakarta). The journey is ranked as one of the greatest feats of navigation in open boats, taking 33 days with all on board surviving.


Back on the islands, Cornelisz had been left in charge putting all weapons and food supplies under his control. He then moved the soldiers to West Wallabi Island under the false pretence of searching for water. This left Cornelisz in complete control and the two month mutiny endured. Of the 341 people who left Texel aboard Batavia, around 125 men, women and children were murdered.

Wiebbe Hayes Fort

The soldiers, meanwhile, led by Wiebbe Hayes, did in fact find food and water. Learning of the mutiny, the soldiers devised makeshift weapons, set watch and built a small fort out of limestone and coral blocks. Battles raged but Hayes’ men prevailed until Pelsaert returned. The Wiebbe Hayes Stone Fort on West Wallabi Island is the oldest surviving European structure in Australia.

Learn more about The Batavia Story by visiting the Museum of Geraldton