The First Fleet is the name given to the 11 ships which sailed from Great Britain on 13 May 1787, to start the first European colony in New South Wales. It was a convict settlement, the start of a plan to transport thousands of prisoners to Australia. The fleet was led by Captain (later Admiral) Arthur Phillip. This journey lasted eight months, and used a route across the oceans that had only been used three times; once by Abel Tasman and twice by James Cook.:161
Carrying convicts [change]
There were two navy ships, six convict transports and three storeships. The private ships were on contract to the British Government. The contracts were organized by William Richards, a shipbroker (ship salesman) from Walworth. He also supplied the food and drink for the ships. Zachariah Clarke went with the Fleet to look after things for Richards.
The convict ships were set up in the same way as soldiers were transported. People slept in hammocks and there were tables for eating and stools to sit on. To keep the convicts secure, thick wooden walls were built across the deck (floor) from side to side. These had small holes in them so the guards could shoot in case of trouble. The hatches (doors up to the decks) were kept shut with cross bars, bolts and locks. Guards were almost always on duty at each hatch, and a guard with a gun was always on the quarter deck.
Some of the convicts were taken to the transport ships at London, and the rest went on board at Plymouth. Many, especially those from smaller country gaols were not in good health. Phillip thought that he might have to make one of the ships a hospital ship to care for the sick.:154 Newspapers wrote that they expected about 80% of the convicts would not survive the long journey.:54 Several of the convicts died and some of marines were so sick that they were removed from the ships before they left England.:125 The number of people that died on the trip was quite small, and shows that the planning and treatment of the convicts was successful.:156 Most had put on weight and were healthier when they arrived in Australia than when they left England.:155
Food and drink [change]
Convicts were given two thirds of the amount normally provided for sailors. Each week a sailor was given:
- Bread (really a hard biscuit) - 7lbs
- Salt pork - 2 lbs, the salt stopped the meat from becoming rotten.
- Salt beef - 4 lbs
- Peas - 2 lbs
- Oatmeal - 3 lbs
- Butter - 6ozs
- Cheese - 3/4 lb
- Vinegar - 1/2 pint
- Water was 3 quarts of water each day
As well as this food, there was sometimes rice, dried fish, and soup. When the ships were in a harbour there was also fresh meat and vegetables. Women and children were given a slightly different list of food. Sick people were also given wine and spirits.
When the Fleet arrived in Sydney, Arthur Phillip worked out they only had enough food for 49 weeks. He should have been given enough for two years.
Other supplies [change]
The Fleet also took a number of animals, plants and seeds. The animals included sheep, pigs, dogs, cats, goats, turkeys, geese, ducks, chickens, pigeons, horses, and cattle. Plants and seeds included coffee, cocoa, cotton, bananas, oranges, lemons, tamarinds, guava, prickly pear, eugenia or pomme rose, jalap, ipecacuanha, figs, bamboo, sugar cane, esparto grass, vines, quinces, apples, pears, strawberries, oaks, myrtles, rice, wheat, barley, and maize. Some of this was brought from England, and the rest from when the Fleet stopped at Rio de Janeiro and Capetown.
Arrival in Australia [change]
The first ship, Supply, reached Botany Bay on 18 January 1788. Phillip soon decided that this site, picked by Sir Joseph Banks, was not suitable. It had poor soil, no safe place to leave the ships, and no drinking water. Phillip decided to go north to Port Jackson. On 26 January the marines and convicts arrived at Sydney Cove. It was a successful trip, as only 40 convicts had died. Phillip named the settlement Sydney after Lord Sydney, the British government's Home Secretary.
|The following people were on board the ships:||Embarked at Portsmouth||Landed at Port Jackson|
|Officials and passengers||15||14|
|Crew of the ships||324||306|
|Wives and children of the marines||46||54|
|Children of convicts||14||22|
Ships of the First Fleet [change]