1. What is the Batavia?
The Batavia was a VOC flagship which was under the command of Francisco Pelsaert and was in a fleet of 7 ships. The Batavia was set on a voyage from Texel, Holland to the East Indies.
a) Which shipping company owned the Batavia?
Dutch East India Company
b) What is the historical significance of this particular company?
Dutch East India Company was founded in 1602 and was considered to be the first multinational corporation in the world, the Dutch East India Company was established to profit from the spice trade. The company was a combination of commercial companies in cities of Holland and Zeeland as well as between Asia and Europe.
The Dutch East India Company was the first public organisation to issue negotiable shares. This caused the organisation to become one of the most powerful trading companies in history.
c) What type of ship was the Batavia and where was it built and in what year?
The ship was classified as a vessel. A vessel is a ship that has masts, sails and steering gear. It was built in Amsterdam in 1628 on the Pepper Warf.
d) What materials were used in the construction of the Batavia?
The Batavia was constructed to be a 44 metre long boat that weighed approximately 500-600 tonnes. This vessel required lots of materials such as what was used to build the main frame, European oak. The European oak that was needed came from the Vistula River in Poland as was required to be old oak so that it could be bent into planks.
For this vessel to be built the constructors would have needed a minimum of 700 trees.
e) What route did the Batavia take and why was the significant in terms of the Batavia wrecking off the Western Australian Coastline?
The Batavia took the Brouwers Route. This was significant in terms of the reasons as to why the Batavia wrecked off the Western Australian coastline as the Dutch could not accurately measure longitude so that meant they couldn.t identify how far they had gone around the world. The Batavia was carrying 340 people and was travelling to Batavia or what is now known as Jakarta. A navigational mistake was made which caused the vessel wreck near Beacon Island.
f) What was the purpose of the Batavia’s journey and what cargo was being transported?
Cargo being transported included:
• Pre-fabricated sandstone blocks
• Silver coins
• 2 x antiquities that belonged to the artist Rubens – for sale to Indian Mogul ruler
• Medical supplies for the on-board surgeon/doctor
The purpose of this voyage was to transport the sandstone blocks to the city of Batavia so that they could build a gatehouse. This was to be used to form the new VOC headquarters in the East Indies.
g) Why was this purpose so important to the Dutch company?
This purpose was so important as the gatehouse that was to be built out of the sandstone blocks was going to form the new headquarters of the VOC in the East Indies.
h) Detail the events leading up to the Batavia wrecking on the reef. Include the key players in this tragedy (name them and include their roles in this event).
1. At the beginning of their voyage a powerful storm begun in the North Sea causing the ships in the fleet to separate.
2. As calm weather begun there were only 3 ships out of the 7 in sight. The Batavia reached the Cape of Good Hope early, a month early.
3. The three ships had to “progress eastwards between 36 degrees south and 39 degrees south to 3500 miles, then steer north-east until 30 degrees latitude south, and you sights Eendrachts land before sailing onto Java”.
4. A little while after leaving the Cape of Good Hope, the three ships could not see each other.
5. Francisco Pelsaert became sick which forced him to stay in his cabin for the trip. Due to Pelsaert becoming sick, the ships atmosphere began to crumble.
6. Because Francisco Pelsaert was out of the picture, Adrian Jacobsz and Jeronimus Cornelisz began to go rogue with decisions.
7. Part of the crew on the ship was Lucretia van den Mylen who was travelling to Batavia to see her husband. She was assaulted by men in masks. The hung her overboard by her feet to torture her.
2. The Wrecking Event
a) Detail the events that happened during the wrecking of the Batavia of the reef and then after. Include the key players in this tragedy (name them and include their roles in this event) up to and including the return of help from Batavia. (Be thorough here in terms of the major players and what happened)
b) When was the Batavia wrecked?
The Batavia wrecked on the 4th June 1629, which was 8 months into the voyage.
c) Where was the Batavia wrecked? (include the name of location, name of reef and GPS coordinates)
The Batavia was wrecked on Morning Reef in the Wallabi Group of Houtman Abrolhos. It is located Lat. 28º 29.422S, Long. 113 º 47.603E.
a) When was the wreck discovered?
The wreck was discovered in 1963.
b) Who discovered the wreck and what was his/her occupation?
It was discovered by a lobster fisherman named Dave Johnson. Dave Johnson saw bronze canons and anchors in the water.
c) Why was the wreck of the Batavia hard to find? How did the discoverer work out where to find the wreck?
The wreck of the Batavia was difficult to find as Jeronimus Cornelisz and a lot of other trading companies were unable to accurately identify latitude and longitude when travelling from one country to another. This meant that when archaeologists were travelling along the route the Batavia supposedly travelled, in hope of finding the shipwreck, they couldn’t find it because the coordinates were not correct.
4. Wrecksite Survey, Retrieval and Excavation
a) Describe how the ship wreck site was surveyed and the artefacts brought to the surface. Include the following points:
8. Survey Method:
The survey methods used to examine the wreck were magnetometers, side-scan sonar and divers. Magnetometers are used to measure the magnetic field on Earth. Magnetometers are towed behind a boat above the seafloor. If there appears to be an anomaly in the earth’s magnetic field, it could mean that there may be a metal object. This could mean a shipwreck.
Side-scan sonar is where an extensive sonar beam is directed down to the seabed. This sonar beam signal will then return with dimensions of the seafloor and the height. This will indicate whether there may be a shipwreck or not.
ii) Site difficulties:
• Large swell and wave action
• Not much storage
• No running water
• Site is dangerous to work on and is very exposed
• Weather is unpredictable
• Strong currents
iii) Artefacts retrieval methods
The Batavia was lifted to the surface by using lift bags and divers. Lift bags are an objects that is used that that is shaped like a bag with straps which lift heavy weighted objects to the surface. To use a lift bags you:
• Attach the line that you control the object with, to the object
• Connect lift bag to object being lifted
• Slowly add air into lift bag until the lines that attach the bag are straight
• Notify people at surface that the lifting process is going to start
• Fill lift bags until it starts to slowly move to surface
• Move away from object being lifted as it slowly moves to surface
• Do not hold onto the object
iv) Describe methods used to retrieve goods from the site by the first salvagers:
a) What type of jars were found at the wreck site and camp sites?
Bellarmine jugs (jars) were found at the wreck site and camp sites. These jars were often used for wet and dry materials.
When were these jars produced and what materials were they made from?
The jars were produces between the 16th-18th century and were made from water-resistant and durable, opaque, non-porous clay.
b) Describe how these jars are conserved?
The salt glaze conserves the jars. The salt glaze is formed when salt is thrown into a kiln when the ceramic is getting fired. The salt then separates into smaller parts and the sodium reacts with the aluminium and silicon that is present in the clay. This forms a thin glaze that protects these jars.
c) Seawater contains salt, which can speed up the rate at which materials oxidise. What is the other main component of sweater that causes things to oxidise?
d) How do organic materials on shipwrecks such as wood, leather and silk usually decay?
They usually decay due to fungi and erosional-bacteria. These three materials generally weaken in structure due to microbial decay.
e) Why do timbers decay faster in warm waters (such as the Abrolhos Islands) than cool waters?
f) What protected the timbers of the Batavia from wood-boring organisms?
Concretion, coral cover and the sandstone blocks protected the Batavia from wood-boring organisms.
g) What was used to record the undisturbed timbers of the Batavia once they had been exposed?
The system used to record the timber was a coded number system with a letter to help categorise the different types of components. 6 different layers were seen on the side of the vessel, which were coded alphabetically beginning at the top and ending at the bottom, the inside being the top and the outside being the bottom.
Coding is shown below:
A. Knees, decking, deck beams and
D. Inner layers of strakes
D1. Thin skin on top of D
E. Second layer of strakes, lying below or on the outside of D.
T. Stern structure
When working from the outside layer to the inside layer, each layer was tagged, photographed, brought to the surface and then taken to camp. Once it had arrived at camp, the wood was given a registration number and then placed in the seawater tanks. When the scientists new bad weather was coming, they pulled the wood pieces out, drawings would be done, illustrating the shape of the wood and all features on it, photographed and then placed back into the tanks.
h) How did archaeologist tackle the problem of limited storage facilities on the Islands while retrieving the timbers?
To fix the limited storage problem construction had to occur. A small house was built to house 6 people, with a workshop, a shed for storage and a dark room which was not far away. Because excavations of the Batavia were extended over a long period of time and there was no fresh water available on the island, three large water tanks were used to collect rainwater from the roofs in winter.
i) What did the solution that timbers were transported from the Islands in consist of?
The timbers were transported from the islands in situ. In situ means that the artefacts are kept in the original liquid or type of environment that it was first found in. In this case the wood was transported in the water that it was wrecked in.
j) The timbers were found to up to 250% water weight based on the dry weight. These timbers needed to be dried before impregnation but the temperature surrounding the timber was increased slowly over a period of time. Why would this process be done slowly?
The process was done slowly because if the waterlogged wood, that is not conserved, is heated at a high rate to begin with, the wood may shrink, crack, crumble into splintery fibres or bend.
k) What substance is used for impregnation of timber?
To prevent degeneration of wood on the Batavia, the water left in the wood was slowly replaced with Polyethylene Glycol or PEG, which I a water soluble wax that will give the wood strength while water is being removed. This process took years to finish and took place in impregnation tanks.
l) What must be done to the timber (after impregnation) before it can be displayed?
Following impregnation, the timbers were slowly dried out over a period of 10 – 12 months.
The would from the Batavia were place back into their original positions before it wrecked, which were held up by a steel frame for support. All of the wood pieces are held together by stainless steel bolts which were screwed into the bolt holes that were already there.
Wood can be easily removed for further treatment if need be.
m) What humidity and temperature levels is the Batavia stored at?
The temperature of where the Batavia is being stored needs to be controlled to make sure that timber being conserved, that forms the ship, remains in a stable condition. The percentage humidity that the Batavia is kept in 62.5% at 2 degrees.
n) What artefact was used to help identify the skeletons found on Beacon Island?
Pelsaert’s account of the mutiny in his journal helped to identify
o) Describe the damage found on the skeletons and what caused this damage?
The skulls were smashed and were most likely caused by being hit of the head with a shovel or axe and the stab wounds were from a sword.
p) How was the sex of an adult skeleton identified?
• Pelvic structure
• Brow ridge
q) How was the age of the skeleton identified?
• Bone density
• Bone fusions
• Size of bones
• Skeletal fusion
r) Do age estimates become more or less reliable with increased age?
Less reliable due to disintegration over time.
s) Name 3 features that may be used to identify a victim after sex and age has been determined, and explain how each may give clues for identification?
• Bone density – possible diseases
• Teeth – teeth to dental records at dentists
• Pelvic structure – female will have a wider pelvis
• Ridges on head – abrasions