THE FIRST FLEET
1787 - 1788
" --- at 4.00am fired gun and
made the signal to weigh, weigh'd and made sail, in company with the
SUPPLY armed tender, SIX TRANSPORTS, and THREE STORE ships, at 9.00am
fired a gun and made the sign'l for the convey to make more sail "
these words were recorded in the logbook of HMS SIRIUS on May 13th
1787, as the First Fleet set sail for the new Colony of New South Wales,
some 8 months and half a world away.
Note: The HYAENA frigate
stayed with the Fleet as an escort vessel until 200 miles to the west of
Scilly Isles, then Phillip ordered the HYAENA to return to Plymouth.
Notes about the 1st
Captain Arthur Phillip, a
little known but efficient Naval Officer was appointed to command the
Fleet and to be the Colony's First Governor.
There were 11 ships in the
First Fleet;- War Ship HMS SIRIUS, Transport Ships
LADY PENRHYN, FRIENDSHIP, PRINCE OF WALES, Armed
Tender SUPPLY, and 3 Store Ships (carrying sufficient supplies to
last 2 years) GOLDEN GROVE, FISHBURN & BORROWDALE.
Apart from the ship's crews,
there were 1044 people aboard the Fleet, 568 male convicts, 191 female convicts, 13 convicts children, 205
Marines (to guard the prisoners on the voyage, and act as the garrison in
the new colony), with 27 wives & 19 children. There were
also 21 Officials & servants. The youngest convict was only 9 years
old, serving 7 years transportation for stealing, and the oldest was a
woman, aged 82 years, convicted of housebreaking.
The first Port of call was
the town of Santa
Teneriffe in the
The Fleet arrived on, 3rd June some three weeks
after leaving England. There they took on fresh fruit and vegetables
Marine Captain Watkin Tench
recorded " --- During our short stay we had every day some fresh proof of
His Excellency's esteem and attention, and had the honour of dining with
him, in a style of equal elegance and splendour" The Fleet
departed on the 10th June for Rio de Janeiro"
It took eight weeks for the
Fleet to cross the
Atlantic, from the Canary Islands to the South American coast and
seemingly circuitous crossing was to take maximum advantage of the
prevailing winds. Captain Arthur Phillip noted in his official account
" --- Stormy seas were succeeded by warm weather and favourable winds. Land
was sighted on
August 2nd 1787,
and by August 6th the even ships in the Fleet were anchored in
the harbour at Rio
de Janeiro" shore leave was granted from August 7th,
with the Fleet weighing anchor on September 4th, with a course
set for Capetown.
The Fleet took some five
weeks to complete the crossing from Rio to the
Cape of Good Hope.
It was to be their third and final civilized port of call on route. Land
was sighted early on the morning of October 13th and by dark
all eleven ships of the Fleet were anchored in
Table Bay, Capetown
Whilst in port, provisions
were loaded. Corn was in short supply, but cattle and other supplies were
found to be plentiful. The prisoners enjoyed the luxury of fresh meat and
vegetables. The months rest came to an end on November 12th
when the Fleet hoisted sail for the final leg to
For the next eight weeks a most uncomfortable
passage was endured by all, as the Fleet was buffeted by rough and heavy
seas. There was no letup, even on Christmas Day.
Captain Arthur Phillip
decided to go on head of the main Fleet and seek out the best possible
site for the new Colony, before the main body of the Fleet arrived, so he
transferred to HMS SUPPLY, and split the fleet into three. HMS
SUPPLY would proceed alone, with the three fastest transports,
and FRIENDSHIP to follow at full speed. HMS
SIRIUS would then escort the remainder of the FLEET at the fastest
rate they could muster.
Phillip on board HMS
SUPPLY arrived in
on January 18th 1788, with the second part of the Fleet
arriving some 24 hours later on Jan 20th 1788, and the
rest appeared the following day. The Fleet all safely anchor in Botany
Bay, after a voyage of some 15,000miles taking some 250 days or 8 months,
with 68 days in Ports on route
Captain Phillip is not
taken with Botany Bay so six days later he orders that the Fleet to
up anchor and sails them a further nine miles north to Port Jackson,
where he describes it as " --- one of the finest harbours in the world, in
which a thousand sail of the line might ride in perfect security"
By nightfall on January 26th 1788 Phillip's convey is safely at
anchor in a quiet cove with a fresh water supply he called Sydney Cove-
so named in honour of Lord Sydney.
First Settlement- Jonathan King
Biography of George Raper
1769-1797- David Collins
Fleet Web Sites