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UP PERISCOPE

26 September 2003

I was all prepared. I'd done my homework. I'd studied up on the Batavia, which shipwrecked off the coast of Australia in 1629. It was the country's second oldest shipwreck (the first was a ship belonging to The East India Company in 1622.)

The Batavia is noteworthy because of (a) her history, and (b) the fact that the wreck was discovered within the last 40 years, and so it's a very big deal around here.

The shipwreck was a prelude to an extraordinary tragedy. Commander Francisco Pelsaert, all the senior officers, some crew and passengers, 48 in all, deserted 268 people, on the wreck and on two waterless islands, whilst they went in search of water. Abandoning the search on the mainland coast, they made their way to Batavia (modern Jakarta), to obtain help; the journey took 33 days. On arrival, the high boatswain was executed, on Pelsaert's indictment, for outrageous behaviour before the loss of the ship. Skipper Adrien Jacobsz was arrested for negligence. The Governor General dispatched Pelsaert in the jacht Sardam to rescue the survivors. With extraordinary bad luck, it took 63 days to find the wreck site, almost double the time it took the party to get to Batavia. At the Abrolhos, Pelsaert discovered that mutiny had taken place. A small group of mutineers had massacred 125 men, women and children. Pelsaert arrested the mutineers and executed some of them.

When the Sardam finally returned to Batavia, some of the lesser offenders, who had been flogged, keelhauled and dropped from the yard arm as punishment on the voyage, were executed. Out of 316 people aboard the Batavia, only 116 survived. Pelsaert died in the following year. For the VOC it was a political and financial disaster. In the years that followed the events were not forgotten, a book was published entitled Ongeluckige Voyagie van't schip Batavia and it was through this and Pelsaert's Journal that the wreck was finally rediscovered.

See? I'd done my reading. We were planning to go to the new Maritime Museum in port city of Fremantle and I was eager to see the Batavia and its recovered contents.

But. Uh. One little problem. Contrary to what we thought, the Batavia is not housed in the new maritime museum at all, but in a nearby museum dedicated to the history of shipwrecks off Australia's treacherous coastline and we never did see her.

However, despite that, it was a lovely excursion. We were joined today by Janne, who had the day off, and the 3 of us set off around 10:30. Peggy found a great parking space only a mile from the museum (ok--slight exaggeration, but after our forced march across the sands, the shop area, over fences, and thru woods we came to the real parking lot, with spaces just steps from the front door--so I feel justified in giving her a bit of a hard time).

The museum is modern and slick and well arranged. I learned a bit about the fishing industry in Australia (and also learned that Australia interned Italians during WWII...I know the black history of the US in interning Japanese I guess I never realized that we were not the only country to do such a thing).

There is an impressive display for Jon Sanders and his ship the Parry Endeavour, in which he sailed around the globe 3 times, alone. The ship is tilted at the angle that it was during storms. There is a display of some of the items that he took with him, along with a list, which included something like 50 jars of vegemite...no wonder he travelled alone.

The premier display piece, however, is the Australia II, in which Australia took the Americas cup from the US in 1983. It's a marvelous display with all of its crew on board, in wax figure form (of course they looked authentic to me, but what do I know?) A huge sailboat. Very impressive. Peggy took a 3-picture series that she stitched togther that may give a teeny hint

When we finished with the museum itself, we took a tour of the HMAS Ovens, a submarine launched in December of 1967 and commissioned in April of 1969. It had the capacity to launch up to 9 torpedos and as they are now guided electronically, the guys guiding the torpedos probably got their training with Mario Brothers and advancing levels of computer games.

Our tour guide...I think his name was Nick...was an old submariner himself and warmed to his tale. We were constantly being prodded ahead by the tour groups coming behind us because Nick had gotten so wrapped up in his stories and descriptions about the ship and about life in a submarine.

When that tour was over, we had the forced march past the empty museum parking lot, back across the fences and sand dunes and scrub to get to the car before it was ticketed for being parked too long. Then we went off to the market for lunch, wandering around the shops, and eating ice cream while watching the ships pull into the port at Fremantle for loading.

We drove home along the coast and stopped to watch a bunch of guys parasailing.

We would have been home in time for tea (dinner) but we were both still full from the late lunch and the ice cream, so we're just relaxing and getting ready for tomorrow's strenuous day, watching the footy playoffs, eating meat pies, and having tea at Janne & Chris's when it's all over.


By the way, Peggy's photos from the Wildlife Park yesterday were stunning. I was going to make a supplemental page here, but would have to print them in smaller size than they deserve, so instead I uploaded some to Fotolog and I encourage you to go and check them out. Especially the Lorikeet. It's professional quality (as are they all, actually).

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