THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: Details of first ships arrival at Botany Bay published

From the News Letter, April 1, 1789

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 9:59 am
Australia in 1794 Samuel Dunn Map of the World in Hemispheres

The following details of the first cargo of prisoners to Australia from Britain appeared in the News Letter on this day in 1789.

The despatch read as follows: “The two ships, the Sirius and Supply, with transports, under the command of Commodore Phillips, have made a good their voyage to Botany Bay.”

It continued: “On arrival of this squadron at Botany Bay, the destined spot was found not to have water sufficient for the supply of the new settlement. A council was in consequence held, and the ships weighing anchor stood away for Jackson’s Bay where nature’s gifts appeared equal to all their wishes. . . The face of the country too possessing great variety, and well clothed with wood.”

The ships were of course carrying convicts to Australia, the following details were given of their fate: “Of the convicts and others, from the departure of the squadron from Portsmouth, to the time the ship which brings the advice left Jackson’s Bay, only 40 appear to have died; and to compensate this loss, 42 infants have been born.”

Interestingly, the despatch continued: “Three of the convicts were induced to try their fortunes among the natives, where they hoped to have a favourable reception; two of these were in this expedition killed. . . and the third, after subsisting on roots for some time in the woods, returned, almost perished through hunger. This operated to deter further adventures of a like nature.”