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Batavia's Graveyard Hardcover – 14 Feb 2002

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; First Edition edition (14 Feb. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575070242
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575070240
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 3.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 410,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

If you happen to pass Houtman's Abrolhos, the tiny uninhabited archipelago just off Australia's west coast, you'll find out why it's known as Batavia's Graveyard . For there amid the brightly coloured coral, you can still see the sun-bleached bones of the victims of one of the worst civilian maritime massacres. It's not often that the evidence speaks so clearly and yet it's a racing certainty almost no one in Britain had ever heard of the Batavia. As ever when no Brits are involved, we just aren't that interested. But this could all change with Batavia's Graveyard. Mike Dash had a surprise bestseller in 1999 with Tulipomania, the story of the fascination with the tulip in seventeenth century Holland, and Batavia's Graveyard is another slice of Dutch history from the same period.

In 1628, the Batavia, the newest ship in the Dutch East India Company's fleet set sail on its maiden voyage to Java, with its hold crammed full with gold, silver and precious stones. Also on board was a man called Jeronimus Cornelisz, a member of the extreme Protestant sect, the Mennonites, and a dangerous psychotic with it. Cornelisz orchestrated a mutiny on board, but before his plans could be carried out the boat came to grief on Houtman's Abrolhos. And there the fun and games started. The Batavia's captain, Francisco Pelsaert, having got wind of the mutiny, headed off to get help in the only open boat, leaving the survivors to fend for themselves. Which is where Cornelisz steps in; realising that if he wants to remain undiscovered he will need to first kill all the survivors who weren't part of the mutiny before taking out the rescue party on its arrival, he splits the survivors into two groups. The strongest are sent to live on a nearby atoll where Cornelisz anticipates they will starve to death. Then the killing begins. The denouement, when it comes, is too perfectly timed even for Hollywood. It may be X-rated, but this really is the sort of story you just couldn't make up.--John Crace

Review

Good reviews are now coming in for this wonderful narrative: "Dash evokes the Dutch East Indiamen's institutional avarice and brutality particularly well, along with the cheapness of life on voyages lasting several years, and the type of person they subsequently attracted... Dash's version of their hair-raising tale sensibly eschews hysterical romanticism in favour of a springy, understated narrative that lets the horror speak for itself... Awfully good butnot for the fainthearted."SUNDAY TIMES "The details are gruesome but the stor --Sunday Times --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By James Powell on 26 Mar. 2002
Format: Hardcover
Batavia's Graveyard has to rank as one of the best books I've ever read. It tells the incredible story of how a bunch of several hundred Dutch people travel (for various reasons) on the great ship Batavia to the Dutch East Indies to fill the ship with spices worth an absolute fortune back home. But the ship crashes many miles west of the Australian coast leaving the many survivors stuck on a tiny island. It's what happens next that is really unbelievable. While the head of the ship sails off in a smaller boat to try and find help, one of the other officers assumes control of the island, which might have saved many lives if he wasn't a genuine psychopath who binded a number of loyal men to him and systematically began killing just for the fun of it. But some survivors collected on another island nearby and made preparations to defend themsleves from the inevitable assault that would come. It really is one of those stories so incredible you couldn't make it up. The author writes in a very neat and reader-friendly fashion which makes the book a real page-turner. Apart from the main story he also writes about the historical context, including the early European history of Australia and the men who got marooned there, never to be seen again. In short, buy it - you'll never read another true story quite as dramatic.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By "monsieur_coco" on 9 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is interesting from a number of perspectives. It tells about life in Holland in the 17th century, gives an insight into life aboard a VOC trading ship (it puts paid to the romantic notion of sailing off to the Far East to make your fortune from the spice trade - the majority of sailors and VOC employees were desperate men and conditions aboard were far from pleasant for most), and recounts the frightening story of shipwrecked life under the assumed command of probably the most bloodthirsty psychopath in history.
The story of the Batavia fired the public imagination for many years after the event, and has over time fallen from memory. Mike Dash has brought the story to life again.
Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A. Chambers on 7 Jun. 2002
Format: Hardcover
Quite apart from the terrifying events at the wreck site, which others have discussed, this is a well told and fascinating insight into Dutch life in the early seventeenth century. The detailed account of life aboard ship - including the overcrowding, the toilet facilities, the vermin, the food, the water, and the healthcare - are quite enough to put you off your breakfast. Or at least to dispel any overly romantic notions you might have.
The rate at which people died off from an enormous range of ailments, or were killed off by accidents or for seemingly minor offences, is almost incredible. The way Dash tells it, I couldn't help wondering how the Dutch were able to establish any kind of foothold in the Spice Islands at all.
One final thing: I had never really understood what it meant to be "broken on the wheel". Dash leaves you in absolutely no doubt. Grim, very grim...
I thoroughly recommend this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ian McUmber on 23 Feb. 2003
Format: Hardcover
The history lesson in this book goes well beyond the "Mad Heretic". It includes lifestyles, social attitudes, religion, maritime commerce and punishments, etc. from the early 17th century. The research must have seemed endless. I can honestly say it is the best book I have ever read. If a movie is not made of this incomprehensible adventure and tragedy the world is missing out.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. GM De La Bedoyere on 16 May 2013
Format: Paperback
I must have bought this book in or about 2007. Like so many other readers I literally couldn't put it down. An utterly compelling tale of total horror, all conducted on what must have seemed an unfathomably remote location at the time off the coast of what they called the Great Southland. The evil of Jeronimus Cornelisz in 1629 is only overshadowed by the willingness of some of the crew to carry out his macabre wishes to wipe out as many survivors as possible. I have reread the book several times since and resolved to visit the place for myself. So I did. In April 2013 we (self and wife) flew from London to Perth, visited the Shipwreck Museum at Fremantle where the Batavia's stern is displayed along with the skeleton of one of the victims and various finds such as coins and pottery. We then drove north to Geraldton to see the museum there too; on display is the arch destined for Java and being carried by the ship as ballast. We booked ourselves a day out with Geraldton Air Charter and went out to the Abrolhos Islands. You can only land on East Wallabi Island but you get a flypast over Beacon Island where the killings took place, Seal's Island where the mutineers were executed by Pelsart (the commander of the voyage) when he returned from Java with help only to discover what had been going on, West Wallabi Island where the marines had built their fortlets to defend themselves against the mutineers; finally you fly over Morning Reef where the Batavia struck and to this day the hole it wrenched out of the coral is visible. I took my copy of this book with me and read some of it again 'on location'. Worth every penny and every mile to get there and it all goes back to reading this book in the first place. You can't say that of most books!!Read more ›
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