In 1628 the Dutch East India Company loaded the Batavia, the flagship of its fleet, with a kingâ€™s ransom in gold, silver, and gems for her maiden voyage to Java; the ship itself was a tangible symbol of the worldâ€™s richest and most powerful monopoly. The company also sent along a new employee to guard its treasure. He was Jeronimus Corneliszoon, a disgraced and bankrupt man with great charisma and dangerously heretical ideas. With the help of a few disgruntled sailors, he hatched a plot to seize the ship and her riches. The mutiny might have succeeded, but in the dark morning hours of June 3, 1629, the Batavia smashed through a coral reef and ran aground on a small chain of islands near Australia. The captain and skipper escaped the wreck, and in a tiny lifeboat they set sail for Javaâ€”some 1,500 miles northâ€”to summon help. More than 250 frightened survivors waded ashore, thankful to be alive. Unfortunately, Jeronimus and the mutineers had survived too, and the nightmare was only beginning.