June 1629. Laden with treasure and the riches of Europe, the merchantman Batavia, flagship of the Dutch East India Company, sails on her maiden voyage from Amsterdam bound for the East Indies. But thirty miles off the coast of Terra Incognita Australis-the unknown south land-she smashes into an uncharted reef. The survivors-women and children, sailors, soldiers and merchants-are washed ashore on a pair of uninhabited, hostile islands, with little food or fresh water. Desperately seeking help, the ship's officers set out in an open boat to make a two-thousand-mile journey to the nearest trading post. While they are gone, from the struggle for survival on the islands, there emerges a tyrant whose brutal lust for power is even deadlier than the reef which wrecked the Batavia.