Sunday History Photo/WA

Submitted: Sunday, May 10, 2009 at 07:44
ThreadID: 68685 Views:2402 Replies:2 FollowUps:1
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Who’s been to Kalbarri and the National Park , what a fantastic location, the views along the ocean cliffs are supurb.
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In 1629 the ship Batavia, then on her maiden voyage, sank after running aground on the Houtman Abrolhos Islands some 40 miles off the coast of Western Australia. The events that followed involved the extremes of human behaviour both evil and heroic. The story has recently been brought to life in a TV documentary drama produced by Prospero Productions.
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The Batavia was the impressive new flagship of the Dutch East India Company, and it was during its maiden voyage to its namesake in Java that it struck a reef in the Abrolhos Islands, some 80 kilometres off the Western Australian coast. This was sometime after midnight on the 4 June 1629 and there was no real way for those keeping watch to know that they were sailing into a treacherous cluster of reefs, shoals and low-lying islands. The impact threw Commander Francisco Pelsaert from his bed and soon the other 315 men, women and children on board were in a state of panic. Where were they, what had happened?
For many years the wreck of the Batavia was thought to be somewhere in the southern Abrolhos Islands. But in the 1950s, historian Henrietta Drake-Brockman arranged for a translation of Pelsaert's Journal and in her ground-breaking book Voyage to Disaster, she postulated that the most likely location of the wreck was further north in the Abrolhos's Wallabi Group. She was right.
The first divers to find the wreck were Geraldton's Max and Graham Cramer, along with Greg Allen. This was in 1963 and they'd been taken to the likely site by crayfisherman Dave Johnson. A preliminary expedition was made and many items were recovered. The story of the momentous discovery and the early expeditions has been expertly told by Hugh Edwards in Islands of Angry Ghosts.
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Since then, the challenging task of unravelling the mysteries of the wreck and its tragic aftermath has fallen to the WA Museum and its expert staff. The amount of material excavated during numerous expeditions is quite staggering, with virtually everything that remained of the ship and its cargo having now been raised. This includes part of the hull, many cannon, 137 huge prefabricated sandstone blocks intended for a portico at the Dutch headquarters at Batavia, ornate silverware, 7700 silver coins, ceramics and thousands of ballast bricks. From the various island sites occupied by the castaways, the skeletons of many of the murder victims have been unearthed, along with numerous artefacts. The remnants of defensive walls and stone shelters built by Wiebbe Hayes and his men on West Wallabi Island are Australia's oldest known European structures.
Two mutineers, Wouter Loos, a soldier, and Jan Pelgrom de Bye, a cabin boy, were left marooned on the Australian mainland at Wittecarra Gully, near the mouth of the Murchison River, thereby becoming Australia's first European settlers.
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Reply By: Member - Paul Mac (VIC) - Sunday, May 10, 2009 at 07:55

Sunday, May 10, 2009 at 07:55
As usual Doug, very interesting read.

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Follow Up By: RV Powerstream P/L - Sunday, May 10, 2009 at 08:02

Sunday, May 10, 2009 at 08:02
I look forward to your Sunday History posting it adds a "Touch of Class" to the forum.
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Reply By: new boy - Sunday, May 10, 2009 at 11:48

Sunday, May 10, 2009 at 11:48
Interesting Doug and pretty close to my heart I have worked for 20 years with a guy who own a Cray licence based on Beacon Island which is where all the action murder and rape took place. There is still a rock structure at the eastern end of the island believed to be a prison and beside our jetty in about 3 ft of water is a cannon.
The fishers are no longer allowed to dig a hole as the museum must come and inspect any bones dug up as the likely hood of them being 375 y old human bones is very real.There has been a deal done with the Australian and Dutch government and in the next couple of years the 3 fishers on the island will be relocated to other islands and Beacon returned to it's natural state.
On a nice calm day you can sit over the wreck in about 5 fathoms of water and see a couple of cannons and the outline of the ship .
Islands of the angry ghosts is a great read.
AnswerID: 364143

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