Jeronimus Cornelisz, a chemist, starts his employment with the Dutch East India Company as an under-merchant on the East Indiaman ‘Batavia’.
His business has gone bankrupt and his name has been defiled. He fears persecution in the wake of the painter Torrentius, who was found guilty of heresy because of his free-thinking views on religion.
During the voyage, he hatches a plot for a mutiny together with the captain (!) so that he can get hold of the riches aboard the ship. They are patiently waiting for the right moment.
Before their moment arrives, they run aground on a couple of reefs off the Australian coast. There is no water and very little food.
After a few days the captain and the chief merchant set out for Java in a tiny lifeboat to ask for help. Jeronimus stays behind with over two hundred others; most of them soldiers and sailors, but also some women, children, and a preacher with his family.
The under-merchant decides to start his own kingdom with a few of his faithful followers, a ruthless regime that does not even flinch at murder. It’s pure terror.
When help arrives after a few months, the population has shrunk to less than eighty.