A ship belonging to the Dutch East India Company, the Batavia shipwrecked on her maiden voyage, hitting a reef near Beacon Island in 1629. A subsequent mutiny resulted in a massacre of the survivors. While the Captain and a few crew went for help the survivors were stranded on the rocky atoll with Jeronimous Cornelisz in charge. Cornelisz had been involved with a group of would be mutineers prior to the wreck and fearing they would be rescued and his part in the plot revealed he made a plan to overwhelm the rescuers and steal the boats. He then set about coercing his few faithful followers into murdering the survivors. They killed 110 people but a group of soldiers survived and escaped. When the Captain and the rescue boats arrived Cornelisz and his men failed in their bid to take over the rescue ships and were subsequently tried for their crimes.
Cornelisz and the main mutineers had their hands chopped off and were hung. Two younger accomplices were marooned on mainland Australia, this being prior to European settlement. They were never heard of again. This is just one of many shipwreck stories that have played out along the huge, reefed coastline of Western Australia
It only seemed natural that a shipwreck should feature in the First Peron Cove Mystery, The Lighthouse Keeper. The shipwreck in the story is that of a three masted barque called the Ellinor. Like happened so many times in such cases it was impossible to save the passengers and crew. I wanted the shipwreck to be a catalyst for the events that would unfurl. The remoteness of many shipwrecks also made rescues difficult in the past.
Western Australia has an amazing Shipwrecks Gallery and inside it you can see the slow and fastidious reconstruction of the reclaimed artefacts of the Batavia. You can walk above it and under its looming edifice. There are also the skeletons of some of the victims, painstakingly preserved in glass cases. It's a somber exhibition but what is overwhelming is remembering that The Dutch East India Company was one of the first multinational companies and its ships bravely charted unknown seas in search of spices.