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.The skipper remained sanguine, unaware that he himself was now suspected.He was certain that the commandeur was merely biding his time.Once the Batavia neared Java—and the support of the Dutch authorities there—Pelsaert would surely act, arresting suspects and clapping them in chains.This development could still be the signal for a mutiny.By now, the plot was fairly well developed.Led by Jacobsz, a small group of dependable men would rise up in the small hours of the morning, when the great majority of those on board were asleep.They would batter their way into the commandeur’s cabin, seize Pelsaert and toss him into the sea, while the main body of mutineers broke out their concealed weapons and nailed down the hatches to the orlop deck to prevent the soldiers intervening.Once it became clear that the rebels had control of the Batavia, fear and greed would make it a simple matter to recruit the 120 or so sailors and gunners needed to run the ship.In the absence of any spare boats, or a convenient island on which to maroon them, the rest of those on board—200 or so loyal officers, useless passengers, and unwanted men—would have to follow the commandeur over the side.The remainder of the plot was equally straightforward.With a powerful new ship at their disposal, the mutineers would turn to piracy.Putting in to Mauritius or Madagascar for supplies, they would prey on the rich commerce of the Indian Ocean for a year or two, until they had accumulated sufficient loot to make every man on board wealthy.When that had been achieved, they would settle down to enjoy their money well out of the reach of the VOC.So the skipper and the under-merchant sat back and waited for Pelsaert’s reprisals.The commandeur would act, Ariaen predicted, when Batavia sighted the Australian coast.For the men of the retourschip, the great red continent was little more than a void on the charts they carried.“Terra Australis Incognita,” they called it: “the unknown South-Land.” Even in 1629, its very existence was based more on supposition than on fact.Early geographers, such as the Greco-Egyptian Ptolemy, writing in a.d.140, had imagined a world divided into four gigantic continents.Europe, and what was known of Africa and Asia, was believed to occupy the northeast portion of the globe.This massive land mass seemed to require a counterbalance.From the earliest days, therefore, world maps showed a giant continent south of the equator, girdling the Earth and in many cases joining South America and Africa to China.As the Portuguese and Spaniards pressed southward in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, it gradually became apparent that the South-Land could not be as big as had been supposed.Ships rounded the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn without sighting it and sailed northwest across the Pacific and east through the Indian Ocean without finding any trace of the mysterious continent.By the time the VOC was founded, almost the only place left to look was the great blank that still lay south of the Indies and west of the Americas.Contemporary globes and maps continued to indicate the presence of Terra Australis in this area.Over the years, elements of fantasy had crept into descriptions of the South-Land, and in the sixteenth century faulty interpretation of the works of Marco Polo led to the addition of three nonexistent provinces to maps of the southern continent.The most important of the three was Beach, which appeared on many charts with the alluring label provincia aurifera, “gold-bearing land”; sailors often referred to the whole South-Land by this name.The other imaginary provinces were Maletur (scatens aromatibus, a region overflowing with spices) and Lucach, which was said as late as 1601 to have received an embassy from Java.The existence of these provinces was an article of faith for most Europeans; in 1545 the Spaniards had actually appointed a governor of the nonexistent Beach—a certain Pedro Sancho de la Hoz, who was one of the conquistadors of Chile.Even the more pragmatic Dutch did not entirely disbelieve, for their ships had occasionally stumbled unexpectedly across a coast that they believed must be part of Terra Australis.In the first years of the VOC, the Company’s sailors had largely kept to the sea lanes established by the Portuguese.From the Cape of Good Hope, these ran north along the African coast to Madagascar, and then northeast across the Indian Ocean to the Indies.There were, however, significant problems with this route.The heat was frequently unbearable, the Portuguese unfriendly, and there were numerous shoals and shallows to negotiate along the way.Furthermore, once north of the Cape, contrary winds and currents made the voyage extremely slow; journeys of up to 16 months were not uncommon.Frequent hurricanes also occurred, which caused the loss of many ships.The Dutch persisted with the Portuguese route, unsatisfactory as it clearly was, only because they knew of no alternative.Then, in 1610, a senior VOC official named Henrik Brouwer discovered an alternate passage far to the south of the established sea lanes.Heading south rather than north from the Cape of Good Hope until he reached the northern limits of the Roaring Forties, he found a belt of strong, consistent westerlies that hurried his ships toward the Indies.When Brouwer estimated that he had reached the longitude of the Sunda Strait, which divides Java and Sumatra, he had his ships turn north and reached the port of Bantam only five months and 24 days after leaving the United Provinces.He had cut about 2,000 miles from the journey, outflanked the Portuguese, more than halved the time taken to complete the outward voyage, and arrived in Java with a healthy crew to boot.The Gentlemen XVII were suitably impressed.Faster voyages meant increased profits, and from 1616 all Dutch ships were enjoined to follow the “fairway” Brouwer had discovered.So long as the VOC’s skippers kept an accurate reckoning of their position, it was undoubtedly a far superior route.But the strong winds and fast currents of the Southern Ocean made it all too easy to underestimate how far east a ship had sailed.When this occurred, the vessel would miss the turn to the north and find herself sailing dangerously close to the barren coast of Western Australia.There were several near disasters.In 1616 the East Indiaman Eendracht*25 unexpectedly encountered the South-Land after an unusually fast passage from the Cape, and sailed north along the coast for a few hundred miles.The charts her officers drew were incorporated into the VOC’s rutters, which henceforth indicated the existence of a small portion of the Australian shore, called Eendrachtsland; but it was by no means certain at the time whether this new coast was the South-Land or some smaller island [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]