Francisco Pelsaert's journal

As a commander of the ill-fated ship Batavia, Dutch merchant Francisco Pelsaert documented the adventures and misfortunes in his journal, Unlucky voyage of the Ship Batavia, which was published in 1647.

Tales of an unlucky voyage

Dutch merchant Francisco Pelsaert was a commander of the Batavia when it struck a reef in the Houtman Abrolhos islands, off the coast near Geraldton, in the early hours of the morning on 4 June 1629.

While searching for drinkable water, Pelsaert decided to sail a longboat 3000 long kilometres away to Batavia, now Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta. He returned in mid-September on the Sardam to rescue the survivors.

While away, a mutiny led to the massacre of 125 men and women. Pelsaert restored law and order on his return and had the ringleaders tried. Seven were hanged and two were marooned on mainland Australia.

Pelsaert’s journal Ongeluckige voyagie, van’t schip Batavia, nae de Oost-Indien … (Unlucky voyage of the Ship Batavia) was published in Amsterdam in 1647. Conservatively, it’s estimated to be worth $500,000. A facsimile version published in 1994 is also held in the Battye Library collection.

After the Batavia tragedy, which adversely affected his health, Pelsaert took part in an expedition to Sumatra. He died soon after his return to Batavia in September 1630.

The Batavia journal of Francisco Pelsaert: Algemeen Rijksarchief [ARA] The Hague Netherlands : Document 1630: 1098 QQII, fol.232-316 Call No Q 994.12 PEL

The Batavia journal of Francisco Pelsaert: Algemeen Rijksarchief [ARA] The Hague Netherlands : Document 1630: 1098 QQII, fol.232-316 Call No Q 994.12 PEL

Title page of Ongeluckige Voyagie van't Schip Batavia, nae de Oost-Indien (Unlucky Voyage of the Ship Batavia)

"Shipwreck" an illustration from Francisco Pelsaert's Journal (fold out pages 2-3), 1629

"Massacre of the crew" an illustration from Francisco Pelsaert's Journal (fold out pages 16-17), 1629

"Trial and punishment", an illustration from Pelsaert's Journal (fold out pages 40-41), 1629

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Last updated on 15 September 2021