First Fleet Fellowship
THE FIRST FLEET 1787 - 1788
MAY 1787 : DEPARTURE
"..AT 4 AM FIRED GUN AND MADE THE SIGNAL TO WEIGH, WEIGH'D AND MADE SAIL, IN COMPANY WITH THE HYAENA FRIGATE, SUPPLY ARMED TENDER, SIX TRANSPORTS AND THREE STORE SHIPS, AT 9 FIRED A GUN AND MADE THE SIGN'L FOR THE CONVOY TO MAKE MORE SAIL."
With these words the logbook of HMS Sirius recorded the departure of what we know
today as "The First Fleet". The eleven ships of the fleet under the command
of Captain Arthur Phillip RN took their leave from Portsmouth, England early on Sunday
13 May 1787 bound for a virtually unknown shore eight long months and half a world
away. The escort vessel, HMS Hyaena stayed with the fleet until it was clear of the
English channel and into open waters. Aboard were some 750 convicts from Britian's
overcrowded prison system. They were bound for Botany Bay, there to establish the
first European settlement on Australian soil.
JUNE 1787 : TENERIFFE
The first port of
call was to be the town of Santa Cruz on Teneriffe in the Canary Islands, there to
take on fresh water and vegetables. The fleet arrived at Teneriffe on 3 June 1787,
three weeks after leaving England.
One of Phillip's officers, 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 splendor".
AUGUST 1787 : RIO de JANEIRO
It took eight weeks for the Fleet to cross the
Atlantic, from the Canary Islands to the South American coast. This seemingly circuitous
crossing was to take maximum advantage of the prevailing winds. The Fleet Commander,
Captain Arthur Phillip explained in his official account:
"Stormy seas were
succeeded by warm weather and favourable winds. Land was sighted on 2 August 1787,
and by 6 August the even ships in the Fleet were anchored in the harbour at Rio de
OCTOBER 1787 : CAPE OF GOOD HOPE
The eleven ships of the fleet sailed from Rio de Janeiro
on 5 September 1787. Ahead was their third and final civilised port of call en route.
It took more than five weeks for the fleet to complete the crossing from Rio to the
Cape. Land was sighted early on the morning of 13 October, and by dark all eleven
ships were anchored in Table Bay.
Whilst in port, provisions were loaded. Corn
was in short supply, but cattle and other supplies were found to be plentiful. Even
the convicts enjoyed the luxury of fresh meat and vegetables. On 12 November 1787
the Fleet set sail once more. Ahead was Botany Bay, visited previously only by Cook
and the crew of the Endeavour'.
JANUARY 1788: ARRIVAL
The voyage from Cape Town to Botany Bay took about eight
weeks. It was an uncomfortable passage as the ships were buffeted by rough seas.
There was no let-up, even on Christmas Day.
It was Captain Phillip's plan to
go on ahead and seek out the best possible site for the proposed settlement before
the main fleet arrived. He therefore transferred to Supply' and split the convoy
into three. Supply' would proceed alone; the three fastest transports, Alexander',
Scarborough' and Friendship would follow at full speed; and Sirius' would escort
the remainder of the Fleet at the best rate they could muster. As it happened, 'Supply'
arrived at Botany Bay on 18 January. The second part of the Fleet followed within
twenty-four hours, and the remainder of the Fleet made its appearance on the following
Phillip was not taken with Botany Bay as the site for his settlement, so
he headed north to Port Jackson where (in his own words) he discovered:
of the finest harbours in the world, in which a thousand sail of the line might ride
in perfect security.
By nightfall on 26 JANUARY 1788 Phillip's convoy was safely
at anchor in Sydney Cove, named in honour of Lord Sydney.
NORFOLK ISLAND: MARCH 1788
When Captain Arthur Phillip arrived with the First
Fleet at New South Wales, one of his acts was to send a small party to Norfolk Island,
there to found a secondary settlement with Philip Gidley King as Lieutenant Governor.
Seven free men,, nine convict men and six convict women were to accompany King to
the island. The journey was made aboard HM Supply'.
Norfolk Island lies 1368
km east of Australia and was named by Captain Cook after his patron, the Duke of