Days of Yore
A plea for a makeover of a makeover
LELYSTAD _ The original Batavia sank after striking a reef off Australia in 1629 on her maiden trip. Next came a mutiny and a massacre among the survivors. Today, the East India trader’s replica faces a less cruel, but equally fatal destiny: rain, rot, wind and lack of upkeep. “Already in 2001 we found rot in the ship’s hull,” shipbuilder Willem Vos, who guided the replica’s construction, told the Vaarkrant, a nautical newspaper.
He is appealing for funds for a makeover. Estimated costs: €40 million. “Is doable!,” says Vos. “There is billions for the banking sector. So why could the government not rescue a piece of cultural history and pride? I admit, I am a biased party. This (replica) is my life.” The construction of today’s Batavia offered job opportunities for 600 youngsters and attracted funding from 43.000 donors. Vos: “It would be slap in the face of all Dutchmen if this ship completely deteriorates.” The replica has been lying in freshwater since its launch, April 7, 1995, except for a trip to the Olympic Games in Australia in 2000.
The original struck Morning Reef off Australia’s west coast on June 4, 1629. Most of its 322 passengers and crew managed to get ashore. In all, 40 people drowned. The survivors were transferred to nearby islands that, it turned out, had no fresh water and limited food. A few senior officers and crew went to the mainland looking for water. Finding none, they abandoned the other survivors and headed north to the city of Batavia, today’s Jakarta, in a longboat. The journey took 33 days. On arrival, boatswain Jan Evertsz was arrested and executed for negligence and “outrageous behavior.” A search party was dispatched to rescue the survivors left behind but found that a mutiny had taken place and a massacre in which 100 died.