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Blunderbuss barrel recovered from the BATAVIA

Date: Pre 1629
Overall: 810 mm, 3 kg
Medium: Copper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Transferred from Australian Netherlands Committee on Old Dutch Shipwrecks
Object Name: Blunderbuss
Object No: 00016018
Place Manufactured:Nederland

User Terms

    This blunderbuss barrel made of copper sheeting with a reinforced chamber at the breech is a rare survivor from the 17th century. It was used to fire fire-balls and fire arrows at enemy ships. This object is one of several thousand objects recovered from the wreck of the BATAVIA, a Dutch vessel wrecked of the Western Australian coast in 1629.
    SignificanceThis blunderbuss barrel is part of a gun used to fire pyrotechnic fire-balls or fire arrows designed to set fire to the sails and rigging of enemy ships. The object is significant as an example of a rare type of weapon.
    HistoryThe BATAVIA was built in 1628 for the Dutch East India Company (VOC) as a cargo ship. In October 1628, BATAVIA set sail for her 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 treasure and was in a fleet of about seven vessels. In command of the ship 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 into port 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 Houltman Abrolhos, off the Western Australia coast on 4th June, 1629. The ship was unable to be re-floated and started breaking up. The crew and passengers were ferried to near by 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 marooned 20 of the soldiers on a neighbouring island with the excuse of searching for a water source, and then proceeded to murder any of the remaining survivors which 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 Wiebbe Hayes, had found a good 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, this time armed with muskets, and attacked again but at that moment, Pelsaert arrived in a rescue ship SAARDAM. Hayes was able to put the story 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 SAARDAM reached Batavia, Pelsaert was held responsible for his lack of control and his assets were seized. He died a year later. Jacobsz never admitted to plotting the mutiny and was therefore 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 now protected under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Remains of a blunderbuss

    Web title: Blunderbuss barrel recovered from the BATAVIA

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

    Related Sites Beacon Island

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