The First Fleet | State Library of New South Wales

The First Fleet

Over 252 days, the First Fleet brought over 1500 men, women and children half way around the world from England to New South Wales. 

Drawing - First Fleet at Botany Bay

Detail from Botany Bay; Sirius & Convoy going in ... 21 January 1788.
from 'A Voyage to New South Wales' by William Bradley, December 1786 - May 1792, Safe 1/14

On 13 of May 1787, the fleet of 11 ships set sail from Portsmouth, England. Led by Captain Arthur Phillip, this historic convoy, which later became known as the First Fleet, carried officers, crew, marines and their families, and convicts from Britain to a distant and little known land on the far side of the world.

The Fleet consisted of two Royal Navy escort ships, HMS Sirius and HMS Supply. They accompanied six convict transports, the Alexander, Charlotte, Friendship, Lady Penrhyn, Prince of Wales and the Scarborough, and three store ships, the Borrowdale, Fishburn and Golden Grove.

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Then, from Portsmouth the First Fleet travelled via Tenerife and Rio de Janeiro to the Cape of Good Hope, the Fleet's last port of call before striking out for Terra Australis.

Link to Tales of the First Fleet

The Fleet arrived first in Botany Bay on 18 January. Despite Sir Joseph Banks' glowing recommendation it proved to be unsuitable for a permanent settlement especially as it lacked a supply of fresh water.

Then on 26 January, the Fleet arrived at a new anchorage at Sydney Cove in Port Jackson. The new site had everything our first settlers needed; deep water close to the shore, shelter and fresh water. Phillip named the site Sydney Cove, after Lord Sydney the British Home Secretary. Today this date is still celebrated as Australia Day, marking the beginnings of European settlement.

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From Terra Australis to Australia
Made possible through a partnership with John T Reid Charitable Trusts and Thyne Reid Foundation - UNESCO Memory of the World