• Background information
  • The Ill-fated Voyage of the Batavia
  • Sailing route to the Dutch East Indies
  • Life on board
  • Plans for reconstruction
  • Reconstruction of an East Indiaman
  • Launch
  • Voyage to Australia
  • Sailing at last !
  • Batavia: a Dutch East Indiaman
  • Shape of the ship
  • Lay-out of the ship
  • Raw materials
  • Woodcarving
  • Artillery
  • Rigging
  • Blocks
  • Sails
  • VOC East Indiaman Batavia
  • Batavia yard: built on historic soil.
  • Shipwrights
  • Woodcarvers' workshop
  • Rigging workshop
  • Block making and sail loft

Some insight in the Batavia story

To understand the Batavia one should know a little about the batavia background.

In the chapters below you can read about the United Dutch East Indies Company ( V.O.C ) its original flagship the Batavia back in 1628 / 1629 ,and Batavia's gruesome end on the West coast of Australia.

You will also learn about the resurrection of the Batavia by master shipwright Willem Vos , the ships construction details and its glorious sailing days near Sydney Australia in the year 2000.

The Batavia History

The Ill-fated Voyage of the Batavia

The present Batavia was named after a historical predecessor, which was built in Amsterdam in 1628 at the commission of the United East India Company (VOC). The Batavia, which sailed under the command of supercargo Francisco Pelsaert, sank on its maiden voyage on a ridge off the west coast of Australia in June 1629. Of the 341 persons on board forty were drowned immediately in the surf, whilst the others were able to swim to the safety of a nearby island. Because the island had neither food nor water, Commander Pelsaert decided to get help from the town of Batavia on the island of Java – present-day Jakarta – and together with some of his officers he departed in the large sloop. During Pelsaert's absence, mutiny broke out. Leader of the mutiny was under merchant Jeronimus Corneliszoon who then considered himself the founder of a new kingdom. Unfortunately not all the shipwrecked sailors could be accommodated on the island and so he and his followers killed over a hundred people. A small band of soldiers led by Wiebe Hayes opposed the killing and managed to escape to a neighboring island.

On his return Pelsaert succeeded in crushing the mutiny with the support of the group led by Hayes and brought the mutineers to trial. Most of them were hanged, whilst others were flogged or keelhauled. Two people were set ashore in Australia and they were never seen again. The shipwreck and the massacres have become known as 'The Ill-fated Voyage of the Batavia'. The story was put in writing, which is why the memory of the ship was kept alive.

The Batavia History

The sailing route to the Dutch East Indies

After leaving the Roadstead of Texel island or the Roadstead of Flushing, the VOC vessels first sailed through the Channel ('de Hoofden') and across the Atlantic Ocean to the Azores. From that point they picked up the Northeast Trades. Between the problematical doldrums (or 'horse latitudes') the ships sailed through a narrow corridor (known as the 'wheel track') as far as the South-American coast. They had to change course near the Abrolhos islands (Portuguese for 'Keep your eyes open'). From that point they sailed south-east towards the Cape of Good Hope, where they put into port for fresh water.

From the Cape they sailed due east, keeping approximately to the 38th degree of latitude, where strong westerly winds blew all the time and the prevailing ocean current was east. Before Australia, near an archipelago also known as the 'Abrolhos': the 'Houtman Abrolhos', they had to keep a northerly course to reach the island of Java. Not all VOC vessels sailed for Java; the VOC had many settlements in Asian countries such as Ceylon, India and Persia.

The return voyage from the East Indies to the Netherlands was different, because in the Indian Ocean they had to use the offshore monsoon winds. This made the journey a lot more dangerous, for the closer they followed the coast the greater the risk of pirates or enemy ships. The Batavia was shipwrecked on 4 June 1629 near one of the 'Houtman Abrolhos' islands, which was promptly dubbed 'Batavia’s Graveyard' by its crew. Today it is known as Beacon Island. The actual site where the Batavia was wrecked is south of Beacon Island at 28°30' southern latitude and 113°47' eastern longitude.

The Batavia History

Life on board

In 1628 the Batavia had no less than 341 persons on board. This included the crew, a large contingent of soldiers and 38 women and children. All those people lived on top of one another during the voyage without any comfort and even less room to move. Privacy was non-existent.
There was a great gap between the sailors on the one hand and the well-bred officers and the richer passengers on the other. The elite had their meals in the captain's cabin from tables decked with linen table cloths, whilst the common folk ate below deck with six men sharing one wooden bowl. The menu consisted mostly of groats porridge with prunes, stale bread and salted meat. Drinking water was usually of poor quality, hygiene appalling. Lack of vitamins caused the much feared scurvy. It was no wonder that many fell ill or died. In fact, it is amazing that so many managed to complete the voyage and arrive in the East Indies unscathed, only to perish as a result of malaria or yellow fever. Those who died on board were given a burial at sea. The dead body was sewn into a piece of sailcloth and put overboard.

Compared to present-day health care, medical attention was totally inadequate but it was sufficient for those days. The barber-surgeon on board had two tasks, beside cutting hair he also carried out blood-lettings. If necessary he would also amputate limbs. There were only two heads for all the crew and they were in front on the beakhead. The elite had a slightly more luxurious toilet in the galleys on each side of the Captain's cabin.

There was strict discipline on board the VOC ships. The slightest offence was punished with severe corporal punishment. The sergeant was an officer whose job it was to maintain order in the name of the council of naval officers. The administration of justice and the execution of the judgment were carried out near the main mast. One quite heavy and risky punishment was keelhauling, whereby the person punished died more often than not. He was pushed off the large yard and dragged along the boat - under water - from one side of the ship to the other. People found guilty of capital offences such as treason or murder were subject to capital punishment, which usually meant hanging.

The Netherlands in the 17th century was a pious country and Protestantism flourished. The spiritual life on board a ship was given ample attention. Cursing and gambling were strictly forbidden, the singing of psalms and other religious songs was held in high esteem. There was always a minister of religion on board and Sunday services were compulsory for everyone on board. Bibles and hymn books were freely available.

The New Batavia

Plans for reconstruction

Because wrecks seldom give a complete picture of a ship, people become curious and want to know what it was really like in those days. One of the people who developed a fascination for wrecked ships was the Dutch shipbuilder Willem Vos. Already in the seventies he had plans to build a full-size reconstruction of a 17th century East Indiaman with as much accuracy as possible. He wanted to exhibit such a ship in its full magnificence. In the end he settled upon the Batavia, the ship with the legendary name.

The New Batavia

The reconstruction of an East Indiaman

Lelystad, 4 October 1985 Work on the reconstruction of the Batavia was started on the Oostvaardersdijk in Lelystad with the laying of the keel on 4 October 1985. The reconstruction of this 17th century East Indiaman along the lines of traditional methods was based on historical knowledge. Throughout its construction, historical research, workmanship and experimentation have gone hand in hand. A great deal had to be prepared before the first nail could even be driven into the wood. Traditional Dutch timber construction and the particular characteristics of 17th century East Indiaman had to be studied. To provide the builders of the Batavia with as much historical information as possible, a great deal of research was carried out at the shipyard.

After the Batavia's keel was laid by the Mayor of Lelystad on 4 October 1985, the actual construction of the ship could commence. For quite some time the appearance of the yard was determined by the keel, the stem and the stern, for the Foundation was still short of funds. It took until 1988 before all 72 frames of the ship were in place, after which the decks and the hull could be built.
By the end of 1991 the full body was complete and all masts had been placed. Subsequently, the work mainly consisted of the minor details, the rigging, finishing of the woodcarving and the interior of the ship. Over the years the building team increased from 6 people in 1985 to more than 55 in 1995.

The New Batavia

Launch

The preparations for the Batavia's launching have aroused emotions for years. It was finally decided to finish the construction completely in the yard. In its fullness, however, the ship could never be properly launched from the slipway. Big lorries, the type used for transporting oil rigs, were brought into action to move the ship to a pontoon on the shore. This pontoon was then taken to Amsterdam where it was sunk in a dock, after which the Batavia was towed back to Lelystad.
This exercise took place in April 1995. On 7 April of that same year the ship was officially given the name 'BATAVIA' by Her Majesty Queen Beatrix. The ship was baptised with water from the Indian Ocean which had been tapped at the point were the original Batavia was so pitifully shipwrecked in 1629.
Today the Batavia is moored to a jetty ashore with more than 220 tons of ballast and can be visited every day in its natural surroundings.

The New Batavia

Voyage to Australia

The purpose of any ship is to sail. This also applies to the Batavia which was not primarily intended to be a museum ship, but a building and sailing experiment. It took until October 2000, however, before the Batavia was indeed able to demonstrate what it was built for: to sail on its own keel. But not before the ship had first been moved to Australia. In September 1998 the Batavia yard and an Australian organisation agreed to move the Batavia to Australia. In the year 2000 the Olympic Games were held in Sydney and the presence of the Batavia would prove an extra dimension to the city of Sydney. It would also emphasize the historic link between the Netherlands and Australia. This project was realised with the financial assistance of a few generous sponsors.

In 1999 the Batavia left its berth in Lelystad for an adventure that was to last 18 months. The voyage to Sydney was made in a so-called dock ship and took about 50 days. Between December 1999 and February 2001 the Batavia was a much visited attraction in Sydney. During the Olympic Games in particular many tens of thousands of people visited this unique ship that lay moored in the centre of Sydney, in Darling Harbour near the Australian National Maritime Museum.

The New Batavia

SAILING

The absolute highlight were the sailing trips that took place in the Pacific Ocean in the first weeks of October 2000. After a preparatory period of some months, in which the ship's ballast was doubled and all kinds of tests and procedures were carried out, the authorities finally issued the certificate of seaworthiness. With the help of tug boats the Batavia was first taken offshore beyond the 'Heads'. The sails were hoisted, they billowed in the wind and on 4 October 2000, exactly fifteen years after the first activities had started, the Batavia made its first independent sailing trip.
The first tentative trip was followed by more, with passengers on board. The Batavia sailed very well under the varying weather conditions, which was the ultimate proof that this authentic replica could indeed sail the ocean.
In April 2001 the Batavia left Sydney to return home through the Suez canal, again per dock ship. In June 2001 the Batavia returned home safely to Lelystad and was given back its own familiar place along the jetty at the Batavia yard.

Whether or not the ship will ever sail again will depend on many factors, not least the financial one.
( Note by Jaap Roskam : And rebuilding of the historic 'Dutch' Courage )

The Batavia Technical Details

The Batavia: a Dutch East Indiaman

With its length of 160 Amsterdam feet (45.28 m) from stem to stern, the Batavia was one of the largest ships of her time. Because of the United East India Company's trade with Asia, a need had arisen for ships specially suited for these tasks. Over the years various types of ships had been developed. The Batavia was an East Indiaman and specially built for the transport of goods and passengers between the Netherlands and Asia. To begin with this type of ship had to be large enough to be able to transport a great quantity of cargo. Moreover, these ships had to be sturdy enough to be able to make long voyages of a year or so.
Many facilities were needed to accommodate and feed a crew of between 200 and 300. Because the ship had to be able to defend itself and the interests of the VOC, it was fairly heavily armed. These characteristics of an East Indiaman finally determined the shape, the lay-out and the equipment of the ship.

The Batavia Technical Details

Shape of the ship

The greatest problem facing shipbuilders in the 17th century when building increasingly larger vessels was the strength of the construction. Because of the tremendous forces exerted during sailing, ships tended to sag at the forebody and the stern after some time; this was called ‘sagging’. The 17th century Dutch shipbuilders solved this problem by bending the forebody and the stern upwards and connecting them with a horizontal deck. The ship was pre-tensioned as it were, which served to make it much more rigid. This pronounced shape, the sheer, was a typical characteristic of Dutch vessels such as the Batavia.
A cross-section reveals a second characteristic. The flat shape of the floor gives the ship a greater transverse rigidity and, in addition, helps to limit the draught. The latter was of great importance because of the many shallows in Dutch waters.

The Batavia Technical Details

Lay-out of the ship

First of all, the Batavia is, of course, a vessel, which means that the ship is fitted with masts, sails and steering gear. Moreover, we can consider the East Indiaman to be a combination of a warehouse, a fortress and a community. When we walk round the ship we keep on running into these three functions: the steering stand reminds us that the ship must be navigated; the gun ports show the defense function. Galley, steward's room, berth and cabin are the areas where the crew must live and work.
The less pleasant side of life on board the East Indiaman is also reflected in the lay-out of the ship: about a hundred VOC soldiers were transported to the East Indies as 'live merchandise' in the muggy orlop.

The Batavia Technical Details

Raw materials

Just as in the 17th century, oak is the most common material used for the Batavia. There are, of course, numerous varieties and qualities of oak. As in the 17th century the timber industry still differentiates between straight, crooked and knee timber. It is the master shipwright's task to find suitable pieces of timber for each section of the ship. A craftsman would first inspect the material with which he is working: can I get a particular beam from that particular tree, or not? Must I try to find a more suitable tree, or do I have to adapt my plans?
Willem Vos was able to obtain his timber from Danish forests, which grow European oak of excellent quality and in sufficient varieties. Over 1800 m3 of oak was purchased, leaving only about 800 m3 once the wood had been sawn up. Masts and decks were made of the lighter pine wood, which nearly all comes from the Black Forest.

The Batavia Technical Details

Woodcarving

Seventeenth century vessels were richly adorned with woodcarving to impress friend and foe. We find woodcarving everywhere, but mostly at the rear of the ship. The more than 100 woodcarvings are made from Danish oak and have been carved from a single block as much as possible.
Thorough art-historical research was carried out into the form and content of woodcarving. The style is that of Northern Renaissance, as was common in the Netherlands between 1550 and 1630. The carvings are polychromed as was traditional in those days.
The carvings have been built up against the transom; the theme is 'the Batavia's myth'. In the 17th century a historic parallel was drawn between the revolt of the Batavians against the Romans in the year 69 and the revolt of the Dutch against the Spanish during the Eighty year War.
Apart from these theme woodcarvings there are also various typical adornments from the Renaissance on the ship, such as grotesque masks and the tritons. In front, at the tip of the beakhead, the Dutch lion looks out towards the horizon.

The Batavia Technical Details

Artillery

East Indiaman were usually heavily armed ships, able to fight warships, rival cargo ships and pirates. The 1628 Batavia had 32 guns on board, 24 of which were made of cast iron. In collaboration with the archeologists of the Maritime Museum of Fremantle (Australia), who salvaged the original guns, highly accurate drawings were made of the Batavia's guns. The artillery of another salvaged VOC ship, the Mauritius, also served as an example. With the aid of a leading iron foundry, 24 replicas of 8 different models and 7 calibers were made.
These guns can be heard regularly when the yard's own gunners' team are firing blanks. The gun carriages on which the guns are placed were made in the shipyard on the basis of historical examples.

The Batavia Technical Details

Rigging

The rigging is mainly made of long-fibred hemp (Cannabis sativa) which was made in a rope yard in the Netherlands. Being a natural product, it must be protected against weather influences through a series of processes. For safety reasons all hemp rigging has been replaced by more durable material in the past few years. A distinction can be made between running and standing rigging. The standing rigging is used to fix the masts, which are supported lengthways by stays and abeam by shrouds. The rigging for shrouds and stays is covered with sailcloth and thinner hemp rope for protection and subsequently treated with so-called Stockholm tar. Running rigging is all tackle which has blocks and sheaves to operate the sails. The thickest rope on board is the main stay, with a diameter of 144 mm. The overall length of the rigging used on board the Batavia would amount to no less than 21 kilometers.

The Batavia Technical Details

Blocks

About 500 blocks are needed, as a link between the rigging and the ship's construction. The gun carriages for the artillery are also operated with the use of rigging and about 250 blocks. Moreover, the ship must also have enough spare blocks. Most blocks for the running rigging have sheaves made from pockwood. This type of wood came from Guyana and was used in the 17th century for its self-lubricating qualities. Other blocks have bronze sheaves. Blocks for the standing rigging do not have sheaves, but three or more holes and are known as deadeyes. All these blocks are made from the tough ash wood. The big jeer block, the block which is used to lower and hoist the sail to the yard, is made of oak.

The Batavia Technical Details

The Sails

The Batavia has 10 sails and 2 bonnets. Seventeenth century sailing rigging does not have real possibilities to reeve the sails. A bonnet is a strip of sailcloth which is attached to the sail with loose ossels. If the wind gets stronger, the bonnet is removed. The lateen mizzen and the fore staysail of the Batavia each have a bonnet.
With the exception of the lateen mizzen, the Batavia is square-rigged, which means that the sails are attached to yards which are set crossways to the length of the ship. The yards are attached to the masts with so-called parrels and can be lowered and hoisted.
The sails are made of linen cloth, the bigger sails being of a heavier quality than the smaller ones. Each sail is made of canvas strips each 60 cm in width, called cloths. The cloths have been sewn together manually by the sailmakers of the yard using a special stitch, the 'double round seam' which was commonly used in the 17th century. Furthermore, each sail has all kinds of other rigging for its operation.

The Batavia Technical Details

VOC East Indiaman Batavia

Built in accordance with the decision of the Gentlemen Seventeen [i.e.VOC directors] of 17 March 1626

Length between perpendiculars 45.30 m
Overall length 56.60 m
Beam 10.50 m
Maximum draught 5.10 m
Height main mast 55 m
Empty weight 650 tons
Ballast 220 tons of lead
Artillery 24 cast-iron guns
Total surface of sails 1180 m2
Total length of rigging 21 kilometers
Total number of persons on board 341 (in 1628)
The Batavia yard

The Batavia yard: built on historic ground.

The Batavia yard was founded in 1985 when master shipbuilder Willem Vos was allocated an area on the Oostvaardersdijk on the Markermeer. At first the locality of the yard does not at all resemble any other Dutch cultural-historical attraction such as old ports or picturesque townscapes. The reason is that these are, of course, non-existent amidst the direct straightforwardness of the newly reclaimed province of Flevoland. And yet we are literally on historic grounds. For the bottom of the former Zuyder Zee holds the remains of many hundreds of vessels which have perished over the centuries in the rough inland sea which the Zuyder Zee used to be. If you drive through the polder you can see those wrecks sometimes, as small mounds rising out of the mostly flat landscape. The location of the yard used to be known as the Oostvaardersdiep long before the reclamation, because the large East-bound ships passed by this place in the Zuyder Zee bound for faraway destinations. In this maritime-historic environment the Batavia yard has brought the tradition of craftmanship in shipbuilding back to life. Since its foundation the yard has developed into an important public attraction. So far nearly three million people have visited the yard in Lelystad in order to gaze in admiration at the craftmanship with which the Batavia was built.

But the Batavia yard has more than the Batavia itself! There are various craft centres including the woodcarving workshop, the rigging workshop and the sail loft. The collaboration of the yard with the Netherlands Institute for Ship and Underwater Archaeology (NISA) has resulted in the National Centre for Maritime History. This centre currently includes the Marketboat Pavilion and the NISA building, with a presentation about ships' archaeology in Flevoland and the Netherlands.

The Batavia yard

The shipwrights

Most of the work is done out in the open, because the sawing, planing and the shaping of beams, masts or kneebends are all activities which require a great deal of room to manoeuvre. Smaller parts are made in the machine workshop. The work is mostly carried out under the shipyard's own management. Although we say that shipbuilding at the Batavia yard is traditional, this does not mean that the work is always carried out with 17th century equipment. The yard is a training centre for present-day woodwork and every carpenter must now be able to work with modern tools. It is our practice that all machine-made parts are given a finishing touch by hand. This is to remove the visible traces of the machine in the wood, as this would influence the results in an undesirable manner.

The Batavia yard

The woodcarvers' workshop

After completing the woodcarving for the Batavia, the woodcarvers started work on another project: De 7 Provinciën. This warship will be adorned with many more woodcarvings and ornaments than the Batavia, which in fact is rather sober compared to De 7 Provinciën. The woodcarvers have the advantage that De 7 Provinciën, and in particular the transom, can be seen in the finest detail in various 17th century paintings. This will simplify the reconstruction, although the amount of woodcarving will remain an enormous task.

The Batavia yard

The rigging workshop

The use of authentic materials is characteristic for the building of the Batavia. A clear example is the rigging workshop where rope is being fabricated into rigging proper. Hemp is a natural product and must be protected against extreme weather conditions through a series of processes. The rigging of the Batavia has been repaired and renewed several times during the past few years. Since, despite years of experimenting, no solution has yet been found to the problem of effectively protecting and properly conserving hemp, important parts of the rigging have been replaced by more modern and more durable materials. The reason for this change is mainly a safety consideration, as hemp can deteriorate slowly and then suddenly break.

The Batavia yard

The Warehouse: blockmaking and sail loft

The blockmaking workshop has been responsible for no less than 900 blocks. Some 500 are needed for the rigging, as a link between the rigging and the ship's construction. The gun carriages are also operated with rigging and about 250 blocks. Moreover, the ship must have enough spare blocks.
At the back of the Warehouse we find the nails department, which includes both very small nails and gigantic clinch bolts of a meter or longer. The stairs take us up to the sail loft, the front section of which can be used for temporary exhibitions.
The sail workshop was used to make all the sails for the Batavia. The sail loft is also the place where sails are maintained. The bolt ropes, ossels and grommets are repaired here if necessary. The sails of De 7 Provinciën will also be made in this sail workshop.

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