As your kids stare up at the jagged, torn timbers of the eerily lit Batavia, you tell the story of this wooden sailing ship, wrecked on the coast of Western Australia in 1629. All around you, items in the gallery bring the story to life. On display are sandstone blocks found at the scene of the shipwreck – these were being carried to Jakarta (Batavia) to form a portico for a castle. You will also see the astrolabe used in the unsuccessful navigation, and the skeleton of a stranded survivor who was attacked by mutineers.
Cliff St, Fremantle; (08) 9431 8444
■ The video about the Batavia wrecking, mutiny and modern day excavation in the Dutch Wrecks Gallery.
It is often claimed that the first European to sight Australia was Captain James Cook in 1780. In fact, several European ships sighted the Western Australian coastline in the early 1600s, en route to trade for spices in the East Indies. The Dutch ship Batavia was making such a trip in 1629 when a line of breakers indicated the presence of a reef. According to the skipper’s reckoning the ship was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, so he dismissed the sighting. When the ship hit the reef, all but 40 of the 316 people on board managed to struggle to an island 80 kilometres off the Western Australian coast, carrying silver coins, a casket of jewels and other valuable items of cargo. They thought they were saved, but a small group of mutineers murdered 125 of the men, women and children, planning to keep the loot for themselves…
■ Before visiting, you could read Strange Objects by Gary Crew, or The Devil’s Own by Deborah Lisson, both teenage books based on the Batavia story.
- Shipwreck Galleries, Fremantle, In city