On 29 October 1628, the Batavia sailed from Texel for the Dutch East Indies to obtain spices. On board was François Pelsaert, the merchant in charge of the voyage, and Adriaen Jacobsz, the captain of the ship. Also on board was Jeronimus Cornelisz, a bankrupt pharmacist from Haarlem who was fleeing the Netherlands in fear of arrest because of his Anabaptist beliefs.

During the voyage Jacobsz and Cornelisz developed a plan to hijack the Batavia. However, before this could take place, the ship struck a reef near Beacon Island off the Western Australian coast. Of the 341 on board, 38 were passengers including women and children; most were transferred to nearby islands in the ship's longboat and yawl, but 40 drowned.

Leaving 268 people behind, a group led by Pelsaert and Jacobsz left the wreck site in a thirty-foot longboat in search of drinking water. After an unsuccessful search for water on the mainland, the group headed north by sea to what is now known as Jakarta. This journey took thirty-three days and all aboard survived.

Meanwhile, Jeronimus Cornelisz had established a brutal personal rule on Beacon Island. Supported by a group of men who had originally been part of the hijack plan, Cornelisz ordered the killing of fellow survivors when food and water was in short supply.

François Pelsaert went back to rescue those left on Beacon Island. He arrived two months later to discover that Jeronimus Cornelisz and his followers had murdered a total of 125 men, women, and children. After a brief trial the worst offenders, were taken to Seal Island and executed. Cornelisz had both hands chopped off before being hung along with several others.

Despite being tortured, Adriaen Jacobsz did not confess to his part in planning the mutiny, but is believed to have died in prison.