If “Lord of the Flies” was ever inspired by true events, the likely location was Beacon Island. Hundreds of years after Australia’s first mass murder, scientists have unearthed hundreds the skeletons of hundreds of victims.
While sailing south, a Dutch ship “struck a reef 40km off the coast of Western Australia near the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, a chain of 122 islands in the Indian Ocean.”
40 individuals drowned and the rest swam to shore. Little did those who crawled on to the shore of Beacon Island know that they would face a greater demise in their future. It would become known as Murder Island.
What exactly happened? National Geographic recounted:
As the ship began to sink, most survivors made their way to a nearby island…
…But the Batavia’s Commander Francisco Pelsaert surfaced on a smaller island nearby.
After discovering the islands were barren, Pelsaert, his skipper and 35 other men left the islands for Batavia, now known as Indonesia, in search of help, food and water.
Once his commander had departed, Under merchant Jeronimus Cornelisz began to plot a mutiny.
His original plot to mutiny and seize the ship had been made before the wreck, but the Batavia had sunk before Cornelisz could put his plan into action.
Cornelisz and his motley crew of mutineers sent anyone who might oppose their plans to other islands in search of water.
Beginning with the weak and injured, Cornelisz and his men began their mass murder. With their bloodlust still not satisfied, the mutineers hunted down the men sent to other islands. In total, 125 men, women and children were massacred.
Eventually, those same men would be tried for those murders.
Seven were hung. Two were “sentenced to marooning on the Australian mainland” which made them the first ever recorded European settlers there.
According to Australian News.com:
As they waited to be rescued, 125 men, women and children were slaughtered by mutineers over three months. Some women were kept alive to be repeatedly raped and tortured. The incident has been likened to a real-life “Lord of the Flies”.
Reporter Liam Bartlett returned to the murder scene with archaeologists from Australia and the Netherlands, who are trying to find out how the victims lived and died.
What scientists soon realized as they discovered the bodies is that they were standing in a 400-year-old graveyard of victims, Batavia’s Graveyard.
The alkaline soil helped preserve the victims’ bones.
In an interview, one of the scientists mentioned, “I think it’s interesting that the burials over here were all facing the other direction. We are clearly in a graveyard, but they have all been buried in different ways….Totally Lord of the Flies stuff.”
Some of the scientists involved, like Dutch maritime archaeologist Wendy van Duivenvoorde, wants her work to honor the victims.
“Give them a little bit back of being left behind in this place at the end of the earth.”
There is still much excavation to be done as not all of the skeletons have been exhumed.
How many more stories could be a few feet under–waiting to be unearthed?