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Musket ball, excavated from the site of the wreck of the BATAVIA

Date: Pre 1629
Overall: 0.05 kg
Medium: Lead
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Transferred from Australian Netherlands Committee on Old Dutch Shipwrecks
Object Name: Musket ball
Object No: 00016165
Place Manufactured:Nederland

User Terms

    This small lead musket ball was excavated from the BATAVIA, a Dutch vessel wrecked off the Western Australian coast in 1629. Made from lead, this small round ball was used as an early form of ammunition in muskets.
    SignificanceThis object highlights the presence of the powerful Dutch East India Company in Australia, prior to British exploration. It illustrates the significant role Dutch merchants played in putting Australia - then referred to as New Holland - on the map.
    HistoryThe BATAVIA was built for the Dutch East India Company (VOC). In October 1628, it set sail for it's maiden voyage from Texel, the Netherlands, for Batavia, Dutch East Indies (present day Jakarta, Indonesia) to collect a cargo of spices. For the trip out, she was carrying trade goods and chests of coins and was in a fleet of about seven vessels. In command was Francis Pelsaert, and Ariaen Jacobsz was skipper. These two men had a pre-existing acrimonious relationship, which deteriorated further as the voyage progressed. On board were approximately 332 crew, soldiers, and passengers. Jacobsz became friendly with a fellow crew member, Jeronimus Cornelisz, and the two plotted to take command of the ship by mutinying and turning to a life of piracy.

    After calling at the Cape of Good Hope, Jacobsz steered BATAVIA off course and away from the rest of the fleet. He and Cornelisz had gathered a small group of men with similar views to mutiny, but just prior to their plan taking effect, BATAVIA hit a reef at the Houtman Abrolhos, off the Western Australia coast on 4 June 1629. The ship was unable to be re-floated and started breaking up. The crew and passengers were ferried to nearby islands using the ships two smaller boats, along with the water and food supplies. Some of the men drowned during this operation, but all the women and children reached land safely.

    The islands on which they landed did not have available fresh water and Pelsaert organised a reconnaissance trip to the mainland to try to find a water supply. This proved unsuccessful and Pelsaert made the decision to try to reach Batavia in the long boat. Pelsaert, Jacobsz and 46 crew and some passengers reached Batavia on 7th July 1629, without loss of life. Jacobsz was promptly placed in prison due to his conduct on board BATAVIA.

    Back on the island, Cornelisz took control of the remaining 268 survivors and weapons. Still dreaming of mutiny, he sent 20 of the soldiers to a neighbouring island to look for water, and then proceeded to murder any of the remaining survivors who he perceived as a threat to his command or a burden on supplies. Eventually, Cornelisz and fellow mutineers murdered 125 men, women and children.

    The soldiers, under the leadership of Webbie Hayes, had found a source of water and food on their island. They sent up smoke signals, as arranged with Cornelisz, which were ignored, and some of the survivors fleeing from the other islands reached the soldiers and told them of the mutiny and massacres. In anticipation of a confrontation, Hayes started making weapons out of debris of the BATAVIA, built a stone fort (still extant) and posted a watch. Cornelisz, realising his supplies were rapidly diminishing, decided to attack the soldiers and take theirs. Several battles ensued in which the better fed Hayes and his men were able to keep control and eventually capture Cornelisz. The mutineers regrouped under the command of Wouter Loos and attacked again. But at that moment, Pelsaert arrived in the rescue ship SARDAM. Hayes was able to explain the situation to Pelsaert and the remaining mutineers were captured.

    Pelsaert conducted a short trial and the lead mutineers, including Cornelisz, were taken to another island and executed. Wouter Loos and a cabin boy were marooned on the Australian mainland as their crimes were not considered serious enough to warrant execution.

    When SARDAM reached Batavia, Pelsaert was held responsible for the loss of the BATAVIA due to his lack of control and his assets were seized. He died a year later. Jacobsz never admitted to plotting the mutiny and was spared execution due to lack of evidence. It is unknown what happened to him.

    The shipwreck of the BATAVIA was formally identified in 1963 and is protected under the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Musket ball, excavated from the site of the wreck of the BATAVIA

    Collection title: ANCODS (Australian Netherlands Committee on Old Dutch Shipwrecks) collection

    Related Sites Beacon Island

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