Batavia – Onrust Island

Pulau Onrust is an island in Jakarta Bay that was developed by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) as a shipyard to repair their ships. Consequently it housed a permanent staff of artisans such as carpenters, sailmakers, ropemakers etc.etc.


Onrust Island by Abraham Storck, 1699


Map of Batavia Bay by Johan Nieuhof, 1682. Onrust is one of the group of four islands on the west.

The VOC constructed a small rectangular fort with two bastions in 1656 which was then enlarged in 1671 to gave it an asymmetrical pentagonal shape with a bastion in each corner. The whole structure was made of red bricks and coral, and in 1674 additional storage buildings were built.


Plan of Onrust Island showing the fort,its bastions and workshops built in 1671



Model of the shipyard and its fort from the Indonesian Maritime Museum (Museum Bahari)


This very realistic model is from the historical museum on Onrust Island

It was here on Onrust in 1770 that Captain Cook’s HMB Endeavour was repaired after it had run aground on the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland, Australia. It was also where seven of the crew died of malaria or cholera before they left Batavia in what Cook describes ‘as in the condition of a hospital ship’ and seventeen more crew died before they reached Capetown.

In 1795, the position of the Dutch in Batavia became quite uncertain due to the war in Europe, and the situation became worse with the appearance in 1800 of a British naval squadron which seized five Dutch armed vessels and destroyed 22 other vessels in the bay. Onrust island became under siege by the British and eventually destroyed. After the British departed, the Dutch rebuilt the buildings and facilities, completing the work in 1806. However, a second British attack destroyed the fort again when the British occupied Batavia in 1810.

Martello Towers with artillery were built on the adjacent islands to protect the fort and shipyard and one of these has remained still somewhat intact on the adjacent island of Kelor.


Onrust island was subsequently used as a quarantine centre, a prison for serious criminals, mutineers and political exiles, and then a leperosorium. Today all that is left from its VOC history is a small but excellent museum, a rusty cannon and the Dutch cemetery.


A Dutch Cannon


The Dutch cemetery

About ianburnet

Author of the book, Spice Islands. Which tells the History, Romance and Adventure of the spice trade from the Moluccas in Eastern Indonesia over a period of 2000 years. Author of the book, East Indies.Which tells the history of the struggle between the Portuguese Crown, the Dutch East India Company and the English East India Company for supremacy in the Eastern Seas. Author of the book 'Archipelago - A Journey Across Indonesia'. Author of the book 'Where Australia Collides with Asia' Author of the book 'The Tasman Map'. Author of the book 'Eastern Voyages'.
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5 Responses to Batavia – Onrust Island

  1. Greg Roberts says:

    An excellent story as always, Ian………….an interesting fact re Cook and the Endeavour!

    • ianburnet says:

      The tragedy is that Cook had not lost any of his crew to scurvy or any other disease until they reached Batavia. He also lost the hardest working member of Bank’s botanical expedition which was Sidney Parkinson who had already completed 987 botanical sketches before his untimely death. Daniel Solander was also seriously ill and only survived because he was nursed back to health by Joseph Banks while in Batavia.

      • Loretta Sullivan says:

        Banks and Solander were the only two of Bank’s party of ten who sailed on the Endeavour, to return to England. All the others died during the journey.

  2. Richard Pearse says:

    Thanks Ian for bringing Onrust to us all with the great pictures and diagram.
    I recall the excellent museum there has a big poster of Cook on display. I think the museum deserves to have a model of the Endeavour in itChs display. Anyone interested to co sponsor a donation ?

    • ianburnet says:

      I am happy to help out. Perhaps I could talk to the Museum Bahari when I am up there about an Endeavour model. (I am assuming that they run the small Onrust Museum)

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