A Conversation for The Tale of the 'Batavia' - Waiting in Turn to Die

Re.: Wreck of the Batavia

Post 1


Thanks for an interesting piece on this somewhat obscure event in Australian history. It's an incident that I've been fascinated by for some years. There's a really interesting book about what probably happened to the two sailors who were marooned on the West Australian coast:

"And Their Ghosts May Be Heard" by Rupert Gerristein.

He does a linguistic analysis of Indigenous languages and Dutch (among other things, it's really well researched). He comes to the conclusion that there were about 3 Dutch wrecks off the W.A. coastline where survivors possibly ended up living with the Aboriginal people and leaving some linguistic traces.

Interesting stuff. The wreck of the Batavia has never really been put on film effectively. I think it would make a brilliant movie or 2 part series for TV.

smiley - ok

Re.: Wreck of the Batavia

Post 2


Thanks for writing!

Coming from the European end, I'd kind of got the idea that the events were well known in Australia but nowhere else. Obviously that's wrong.

I came across the story from a Dutch friend. It was a bit of a rebound actually. I love tales of the sea, and wanted to do the Nantucket whalers and maybe the tale of the Essex - then I found it was already well covered here.

Someone told me that there's a museum of the wreck in Freemantle. Since I don't know anyone living west of Melbourne, though, this may not be entirely reliablesmiley - winkeye

Certainly somewhere in Oz there's a piece of masonry recovered from the wreck. It weighs several tons and it's an arch, originally intended for the Dutch fort in Java.

I thought there'd been an Australian TV program, but I think it was more on the lines of a drama-doc. A full-blown movie does seem a sure-fire winner, you're right. Perhaps all it lacks is a footing in the film-making cultures. You listening, America?

As long as they don't get Russell Crowe to play Cornelius. Johnny Depp? Now there's a thought.

I'll try find that book. Sounds smiley - cool

Pinsmiley - smiley

Re.: Wreck of the Batavia

Post 3


No. Not Johnny Depp. He already has the lead in Shantaram (though how he's going to do Greg Roberts - with accent - is going to be interesting). I think Heath Ledger could do well, or perhaps we could go very authentic and get Dutch actors. Hmm. A dark and brooding European/Australian masterpiece about the evil side of humanity ...


The two who were marooned, how they survived and were redeemed by contact with a pure and spiritual culture. Starring, among others, David Gulplill and Deb Mailman (as the romantic lead).

There was a good docco. on the ABC some time ago. You could go to the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) website and try "Batavia", may come up with some interesting stuff. I think some stuff has been salvaged, but the seas are pretty rough over there.

The Houtmans Albrohos are now used by lobster fishermen, who live there seasonally.

I find pre. 1770 Australian maritime exploration fascinating. Another good book, written some time ago, is The Secret Discovery of Australia by ... Mc someone. It concentrates more on the east coast, with some interesting stuff on the Mahogany Ship (apparently an old Portugese caravel) that appears out of the sand dunes around Warrnambool every so often.

There's a fair bit known about early Dutch exploration, but at the end of the 18th. century the repository for all the old Portugese shipping manifests was destroyed in an earthquake/fire. Now that would have contained some VERY interesting stuff. According to both Timorese and Aboriginal tradition the Portugese in Timor were in the habit of going fishing off the northern Australian coast (it's only a skip and a jump). Gerristein mentions some lingustic similarites between languages around the Broome/Dampier Peninsula area and Portugese, but he doesn't go into it much.

I figure, if there were Dutch wrecks on the West coast, then it follows that there were Portugese wrecks as well, it's just that no-one has ever found the sites. Both nations were pretty busy in the Indian ocean from the 16th. century, and they had the habit of catching the roaring 40's across the Indian Ocean and then turning left when they got within sight of the W.A. coast. They must have stuffed up occasionally.

Anyway, it's nice finding someone else who enjoys maritime history. Haven't got a clue why I find it so interesting. Must be past life stuff smiley - magic

Re.: Wreck of the Batavia

Post 4


I browsed based on your tips, and found some neat stuff.

You should consider an Entry on the Mahogany Ship. It would make a perfect h2g2 subject. (I realised when I read more that it's the same lost wreck I'd heard about from Victorian friends, only I didn't recognise Warrnambool as being in Vic and I'd heard a version where the ship's Chinese. Whatever it is, if it's found it'll change Australian history)

You know this site?
Under the Midwest tab is the Batavia, complete with the Freemantle Museum and arch.
Under the NW Coast tab is a Portuguese wreck, the Correio da Azia. Click the link at the bottom for more. There's this too :
(Forgive me if you know all this already. I suspect you might. Quite a lot of it relates to what you allude to : the VOC finding the WA-skirting route to the Spice Islands. You know about the 'Trial' even before the Batavia, I guess. And then at least four other Dutchmen wrecked on the neighbouring reefs subsequently)

The ABC site has a lot on the Batavia, mainly educational, eg :
which also leads on to many other Australian shipwrecks.
There was also a TV program in 2003 on it, about the wreck discovery and archaeology. Some vestigial signs that there was also a mini-series possibly in 1999. There's even been a opera about it!

Here, in case you're interested, are some leads into some of the many maritime Entries on hootoo : A671492 (Essex), A2045594 (Franklin's NW Passage Expedition), A1162388 (Somers), A462007 (Marie Celeste), A457067 (Titanic), A1905031 (Armstrong), A2344736 (Fitzroy/Beagle), A494116 (Wrecks of the Isle of Wight - the index to a whole host of Entries)

Pinsmiley - smiley

Re.: Wreck of the Batavia

Post 5


Oh, yeah, Heath Ledger. Dunno. Ned Kelly was a bit clunky.

Film-buff-offspring advises that he was also in Monster's Ball (which I've definitely seen) and Ten Things I Hate About You (which she says I've seen), but he doesn't seem to have left much of an impression.

Jeronimus should be wimpish and manipulative, anyway. Plausible but creepy. I still reckon Depp could do him. Or maybe Robert Carlyle (based on a recent viewing of Ravenoussmiley - yikes)?

I don't think I know any Dutch actorssmiley - erm

Re.: Wreck of the Batavia

Post 6


Oops. A894116 (Wrecks of the Isle of Wight - the index to a whole host of Entries)

Re.: Wreck of the Batavia

Post 7


Thanks for the sites/references. I'll check them out soon.

Now Robert Carlyle is a good suggestion. He'd be a good ex-apothecary gone wrong, all brooding and psychotic. A Captain Queeg in tights. Good stuff.

Can't think of any Dutch actors myself. I hate reading movies, so have a very poor knowledge of European film. That's my excuse anyway. Now, here's an interesting thought. A 17th. century apothecary would probably have been handling a lot of mercury - the latest remedy for syphilis. Mercury will act on the nervous system and conceivably make someone quite potty. So by the time our hero gets halfway across the Indian Ocean, he would have been barking mad. Actually, Hugo Weaving would also be a possiblity for a psychotic Dutch sailor on a killing spree. He makes a good bad guy, just look at the Matrix movies.

HOpefully there's an anonymously lurking film producer just looking for a new project somewhere here.

(I quite liked Heath Ledger/Ned Kelly, though none of my friends did. My excuse was Orlando Bloom, but that's another story ...)

Judy Nunn wrote an itneresting book that involved an old amulet taken from the Batavia wreck by Aboriginal people - Territory. It's sort of in the background, but these old legends/histories have infiltrated the Australian psyche in an interesting way. They keep turning up in popular culture. One episode of SeaChange (a very successful series run by the ABC) was underpinned by hints of Portugese pirate activity on the southern Victorian coast etc. etc.

There's even some evidence (flimsy, but fun) that the Ancient Egyptians got here - somehow. Based on astronomical observations they made that "could only have been made in Australia"??? And even better evidence that the Chinese had come here, a thousand years ago or so, also based on astronomical observations that "could only have been made in the southern hemisphere". They had the decency to make a dodgy looking map as well.

Whilst doing some research on a totally different subject, I came across an account by one of the Lutheran missionaries in Central Australia, from about 1890. These missionaries were German. This guy swore blind that there was a tribe of red-headed people living on his patch, near Alice Springs (i.e. dead centre, in the middle of the desert, surrounded by sand and thousands of kilometres from the nearest beach), who spoke a type of Dutch!!! smiley - weird

Now I come to think about it, I know some Aboriginal people from that neck of the woods. Next time I see them, I'll have to ask them what they think/know about that.

Anyway, happy nautical hunting. There's some really fascinating stuff out there!!

St.F. smiley - cheers

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