William Bradley | State Library of New South Wales

William Bradley (1757?-1833)

William Bradley sailed with the First Fleet in May 1787 following his appointment to First Lieutenant on board HMS Sirius in October 1786. After arriving at Port Jackson on 26 January 1788, he was immediately deployed to assist Captain John Hunter on a series of surveys of Sydney Harbour. Bradleys Point on the northern harbour shore was named for him.

In October 1788 Bradley sailed with the Sirius to the Cape of Good Hope for supplies, returning to Port Jackson in May 1789. In March 1790 he again sailed with the Sirius to Norfolk Island where the ship foundered on the rocks and was lost. Bradley was forced to remain on the island for 11 months before being picked up by the Supply.

In March 1791 Bradley returned to England on board the Waaksamheid. In England he was one of several officers court martialled over the loss of the Sirius. All were honourably acquitted. At Governor Phillip's request, Bradley was promoted to the rank of Master and Commander, in July 1792. He rose to the rank of Rear Admiral of the Blue and was superannuated in September 1812.

Bradley's journal was unknown until 1923, a year before it was acquired by Mitchell Library from a London bookseller. Bradley's is a more formal record than an intimate diary. With 29 watercolours inserted between the journal's pages, it appears to have been prepared for publication. 


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Transcript: 'A Voyage to New South Wales', January 1788 by William Bradley

Partial transcription (19 - 28 January 1788)

[page 56]

Saturday. 19th. Fresh Breezes from the SE at 7. PM. Brot too, not having made the Land. AM. Mod.t & clear at day light saw the Land bearing WbN, at 10. were abreast of some remarkable white sand hills, having much the appearance of white cliffs At Noon, were in 34°:30'.S.o Saw red point (so named by Capn Cook) with a small Island on with it W1/2N 4 leagues, the round

[page 57]

Hill mention'd by Cap.n Cook as like the crown of a Hat bore WbN, the N.oern extreme of land N.o 10 leag.s a very remarkable clump of Trees like those on Portsdown were seen at Noon NbW... Red point may very readily be known by Capn Cooks remarks viz. the round hill a little to the N.owd of it; but it is necessary to observe that there are two Islands near it & that the Land to the N.oward of the red land forming the point, is very white.

Sunday. 20th: At 2 PM. Saw the white cliffs mention'd by Cap.n Cook to be 10 miles to the S.oward of Botany Bay; I do not altogether think it a certain mark for knowing when you are near Botany Bay, there being many white Sand Hills that shew like Cliffs coming up the Coast; the land from these White Cliffs to the N.oward is tolerably even.
At 4. Saw the entrance of Botany Bay, appearing in the middle of land that shew'd like an Island lying a small distance from the shore, We saw the neck of land by which it is joined to the other land when 8 or 9 miles to the S.oward of the entrance of Botany Bay, it has a sandy beach, the shore cover'd with wood, in the sandy beach is the appearance of a Gully or opening.
The land about the entrance of Botany Bay appears in hummocks & Rocky; & with a Glass pt Solander, the S.o point of the Bay may be seen like a perpendicular notch cut in the rocks near the middle of the land, like an Island.

[page 58]

Those cliffs 10 miles to the S.oward of Botany Bay make in 5 cliffs as you come near abreast of them & the Portsdown clump of Trees is on the N.omost of them when bearing W.t soon after which, that clump loses its remarkable appearance.
At Sun Set, the entrance of Botany Bay bore N.19ºW 7 or 8 Mile shorten'd Sail & made the Signal for the Convoy to pass in succession within hail, they were order'd to be very attentive during the night & to keep their Stations strictly when we made sail in the morning: AM. At day light made sail for the Bay with a mod.t breeze at SE & when within about 2 miles of the S.o Head saw the Supply in the Bay & soon after the 3 Transports that had been dispatch'd under the Command of the Agent. The Master of the Supply came on board as we approach'd the entrance, He informed us that they had only been arrived two days & the Agent one day before us & the heavy ships; at 8. Anchored with the Convoy in Botany Bay & moored immediately.

p.t Solander SSE }
Cape Banks ESE} in 8 f.m water.

We found that the Governor had without much difficulty met some of the Natives on the N.o side of the Bay & after convincing them of his good intentions, they receiv'd some trifling presents from him which they handed to each other without much concern. They were quite naked & had

[page 59]

much the appearance of being well disposed toward us. We saw 8 of them setting on the rocks as we came into the Bay, they called to us, some of them walked along the Shore & others kept setting on the rocks: The Boats met with Natives in every part of the Bay but no women had yet been seen.
Captain Hunter went on board the Supply to the Governor & with him visited the South Shore taking a Guard of Marines with them. Near the place the Governor landed at, we saw several of the Natives in small parties of two, three & five together, frequently advancing & again retreating; The Governor advanced by himself & laid down some presents for them then retired, one of the Natives immediately advanced, picked it up & handed it to the others apparently pleas'd, by Noon we saw that our People & the Natives were mixed together, the Boat Crews amused themselves with dressing the Natives w paper & other whimsical things to entertain them, with which they were pleas'd for the moment.

Monday. 21. PM. An Officer & party of Men were sent from the Sirius to clear away to a run of water on the S.o side of the Bay: The Natives were well pleas'd with our People until they began clearing the Ground at which they were displeased & wanted them to be gone; At sun set when the Boats left the shore, several of the Natives came down to the water side & then went to their Huts. Mr King returned

[page 60]

having been up an inlet on the S.o side 5 miles; He found the Country something better than what it was round the Bay but not any water; Mr King seeing some Natives on a point of land, he backed the Boat to them to endeavor to have some intercourse with them, One of the Natives threw a Spear at which all the rest seem'd much displeas'd, after which they came close to the Boat & were quite friendly; they expressed a wish to know whether the People in our Boat were Men or Women & made themselves understood by bringing some of their women down, pointing to themselves, our people & the women alternately, who as the Men were entirely naked, they were immediately satisfied in this particular by one person in the Boat which served to convince them all were the same.
The Natives that appear'd on the N.o side the Bay express'd the same wish of knowing whether our People were Men or Women, after being satisfied on that head, one of them ran in amongst the Bushes, made himself a Belt of Grass & came dancing out with it round his waist with leaves hung over it; they were much inclin'd to steal any kind of Cloth or covering & did steal some bags which were sent on shore for Hay. AM. At day light the Governor, Captain Hunter, the Master of the Sirius & Supply went in the Long boat & 2 Cutters, to look into Port Jackson, not

[page 61]

finding any situation at Botany Bay fit for settling & particularly from Ships in the Bay being so much exposed to the Sea in bad weather as to render their situation very dangerous. Mr King & Mr Dawes were again sent up the Inlet to determine as near as they could the extent of it.
Major Ross attended the operations on shore & as our settling here was not yet determined on; it was not judged proper to land any of the Convicts but the necessary works were carried on by the Marines & Seamen. Two of the Seamen on the N.o shore straggling into the woods without Arms or any thing to protect themselves sailor like, met with some Natives, Men, Women & Children who very very friendly, met them without fear & eagerly accepted of a Jacket which one of the Sailors gave them, they were all entirely naked.

22nd: Clearing the Ground on the S.o side the Bay it appear'd worse the lower we went down & in digging a sawpit, the whole depth of it was little else but sand, & swamps all round. Some Dogs were seen with the Natives that came amongst us.
When the Sein was hauled this evening, several of the Natives were by & when they saw the quantity of Fish brought on shore at once were much astonished which they expressed by a loud & long shout, they took some of the Fish, (which the Officer permitted) & ran away directly; Some of the Officers going to that part of the Wood, to which they retreated occasioned

[page 62]

them to stop & make signs that they did not like to be followed, on which they were left to themselves to walk off with their Fish: We met with more success with the Sein than before; in a Cove round the point just within Bare Island; In this Cove we found better water & easier to be got at than any place we had yet tried.
     Mr King & M.r Dawes returned after having been by their account about 12 Miles up the W.tern Inlet without being able to determine how much further it run.
AM. None of the Natives appear'd on the S.o side, but a great number on the N.o shore, they struck the Fish as the Sein was hauled ashore with their Spears & ran off with them sensible that what they had done was wrong.

23rd: PM. A Black man was landed among the working Party with whom the Natives were much pleas'd & seem'd astonished that he did not understand them, they wished him to stay with them & followed the Boat that he was in as far as they could, as the Boat left the shore they retired apparently as well satisfied as if the Man of their own Complexion had remained with them.
A great number of rats were seen & a flying Squirrel: The Natives we met with here were of the middle size, men wore their beards long, their hair much clotted with dirt, they appear a straight well limbed people & very active; The weapons

[page 63]

they had with them were either a Spear, a Lance for striking Fish or a Club; Most of those we had seen, have lost one of their fore teeth, apparently drawn or punch'd out, & altho' few were seen with the Bone or Stick across the nose as mentioned by Capn Cook; they had most of them the Hole through the nose. They all expressed great curiousity as to our Sex having our [indecipherable word] beards shaved & being clothed they could not tell what to take us for.

24th: P.M. The Governor with the Boats return'd from the N.oward, having discover'd Port Jackson to be an exceeding fine Harbour with many Coves all forming Inner Harbours, the Soil far preferable to that at Botany Bay & in some parts a good Soil & well supplied with water. These discoveries at once determined the Governor to remove the Ships as soon as possible & proceed himself in the Supply immediately, for which purpose a proportion of Convicts & Guard of Marines were order'd to go with the Supply.
AM. At Day light, Two strange sail appear'd in the Offing which prevented the Governor proceeding in the Supply, He wishing to know what they were first: The wind blowing strong off the land, they lost ground every tack & were too far out for a Boat to venture to them; we perceived their Colours to be French at their nearest approach.

[page 64]

Friday. 25th. The Transports were reported ready to proceed with the Sirius, The French Ships were out of sight at 6 O'Clock. We received the Timekeeper from the Supply where it had unfortunately been let down on the passage to this place.
AM. The Supply got under sail with 2 Long boats, at 6 the signal was made for the Convoy to get under weigh which most of them did, the flood tide ran so strong that they fell to leeward on which the signal was made to Anchor. The Supply after having made several Tacks in the entrance of the Bay, finding the Tide too strong, Bore away & came in again. At 9 she weigh'd, at 10 made the signal & weigh'd with the Convoy, but coming on very thick & the Golden Grove having parted her Cable, at Noon, made the signal & anchor'd again; The Supply clear without the Heads.

Saturday. 26th: PM. The weather too thick to move the Convoy. AM. At day light Fine weather with a moderate breeze at SE: The French Ships standing in for the Bay, An Officer was sent on board of them, found them to be the Boussole & Astrolabe, French Kings Ships on Discoveries; Had been to the N.oward, & called at Kamschatka & China: last from the Navigators Islands.
As soon as the tide made out of the Bay, weigh'd with the Convoy: At Noon, working out of the Bay.

Sunday. 27th: At 1 PM. were clear of the Bay & steer'd for Port

[page 65]

Jackson, At 3. Seeing that all the Convoy were out, made Sail & at 4, were within the Heads of Port Jackson, up which Harbour we ran about 5 Miles & Anchored at the entrance of the Cove in which the Supply was lying & where the Marines & Convicts that came in here were encamped; the Convoy all anchored in & off the Cove before dark.
The entrance of Port Jackson is about 10 miles to the N.oward of Botany Bay & is some dis.ce within the N.o extreme of land in sight when without the Bay, the best mark to know when you draw near it coming from the S.oward, is, some remarkable sandhills over a sandy Bay 2 or 3 miles to the S.oward of the S.o Head, the shore from this Bay to the S.o Head is High rocky cliffs.

Monday. 28th: All the Carpenters & Artificers belonging to the Sirius & Convicts were employed clearing away the Ground round the encampment. AM. Went with Cap Hunter, the Master & one of the Mids about surveying the Harbour: On a point of land in the lower part of the Harbour, between Middle Head & Bradley point we saw several of the Natives on the upperpart of the rocks who made a great noise & waved to us to come on shore, there being a great surf we could not land at the Point we wished, which they observing, pointed to the best place to land & came down unarm'd to meet us, we of course landed

[page 66]

unarm'd, taking care that arms were ready for us at a moments notice; Having some angles to measure from this point, two of the Officers went to the outer p.t of the rocks for that purpose, the others remained with the Natives who were all much disposed to good humour & pleased with us:
On our landing we observed some women at the place the Men came down from, they would not come near us, but peep'd from behind the rocks & trees; when the Boats put off, the Men began dancing & laughing & when we were far enough off to bring the place the Women were at in sight, they held their arms extended over their heads, got on their legs & danced 'till we were some distance, then followed us upon the rocks as far as the Boats went along that shore:
In course of the forenoon we went to a Cove within the Inner S.o Head (Camp Cove) where we were cordially received by 3 Men, who left their women sitting in a Canoe at the other end of the beach, we made a fire on shore & dined in the Boats, while our people were cooking the dinner, the natives were amongst them playing, looking at the Boat, manner of Cooking &c. & were without any weapons the whole time, they laid their Spears down on the sand between the women & the place they met us at; when we left them & rowing towards the point where the women were they got out of the Canoes & ran into the woods, the Men followed us along the shore.