Archive for April, 2010


Saturday, April 17th, 2010

‘The body of the [Aboriginal] woman showed that famine, superadded to disease, had occasioned her death. But how a disease to which our former observations had led us to suppose them strangers could at once have introduced itself, and have spread so widely seems inexplicable’. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. L.F. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, Sydney 1961

1787 – Portsmouth, May 13: A large expeditionary force, eleven (11) ships commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip RN, sailed from England to invade the island continent of New Holland. See: Apollo II, Fly Me To The Moon

1788 – Botany Bay, January 20: Within thirty-six (36) hours between 8-20 January the ships of the  ‘First Fleet’ were at anchor in Botany Bay, New Holland, now Australia.

HMS Supply first to arrive immediately played out her ‘seine’ trawling nets.

‘While the seine was hauling some of them [Aborigines] were present…No sooner were the fish out of the water than they began to lay hold of them as if they had a right to them, or that they were their own’. Dr John White, Chief Medical Officer, First Fleet Journal, Oxford City Press, 2011

1788 – Port Jackson, January 21: Taking Captain Cook’s 1770 charts Phillip accompanied by officers and surveyors set off in three (3) ship’s long-boats hoping to find a more defensible site.

Sydney Cove: That afternoon they sighted the towering headlands of Cook’s Port Jackson’. Rowing between them they found themselves in a vast harbour.

Phillip settled on a protected deep-water cove naming it for the Home Secretary Lord Sydney.

Botany Bay – 23 January: ‘The boat[s] returned on the evening of the 23d…it was determined the evacuation of Botany Bay should commence the next morning.

24 January: ‘I [Tench] rose at the first dawn… when the cry of “another sail” struck on my astonished ear’. Tench. ibid.

Two (2) French ships, La Boussole and L’Astrolabe, commanded by Jean-Francois La Perouse, appeared off the entrance to the bay. HMS Sirius’ deck- mounted cannon forced La Perouse back out into raging seas.

Sydney Cove – 25 January: The weather kept Captain Phillip inside Botany Bay until the afternoon of the 25th January. Aboard HMS Supply he quit Botany Bay, just before dark Supply dropped anchor in Sydney Cove.

January 26 Sydney Cove: Next morning at first light Phillip landed with a detachment of marines. A flagstaff was built and the Union Jack raised. By nightfall the remaining English ships were riding alongside Supply. See: Australia Britain by a Short Half-Head – Captain Arthur Phillip & Comte Jean- Francois La Perouse

‘Owing to the multiplicity of pressing business necessary to be performed immediately after landing, it was found impossible to read the public commissions and take possession of the colony in form, until the 7th of February ‘. Tench. ibid.

La Perouse was without doubt Governor Phillip’s most ‘pressing business’.  His solution was extraordinary.

31January: To stymie the French Phillip advised Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King RN, his close friend and most trusted ally, he was to establish an even more isolated ‘Robinson Crusoe’ settlement.  on a mere dot of an island two (2) weeks sailing time away.

On his second Pacific voyage Captain James Cook RN in 1774 had named this mere dot, two (2) weeks sailing time away, Norfolk Island.


Sydney – 6 February: At the end of the first week of February 1788 the fleet’s two hundred and twenty-one (221) women and their fifty (50) free children were rowed ashore from what had been their home for just on a year.

7 February – Proclamation Day: The following day, in the name of King George 111 without consent of its First Peoples or entering into treaty them, with all the ‘pomp and circumstance of glorious war‘, Governor Phillip’s commissions were read.

Britain claimed ‘Sovereignty’ over New Holland ‘from Cape York in the most northern extremity….and adjacent islands….to South Cape’.

Norfolk Island,14 February:  Just on dusk a week later HMS Supply slipped out through Sydney Heads and disappeared from view. See: Asleep In The Deep

Botany Bay – 10 March: La Boussole and L’Astrolabe departed for the voyage home to France. They were never seen again.


‘Before leaving Botany Bay [25 January] Phillip had messages painted on the rocks of Bare Island near which the Fleet had been moored, to guide the ships which Phillip believed were following closely from England, around to Sydney Cove’. Bruce Mitchell, The Australian Story and Its Background, Cheshire Press, 1965

But no ships arrived. It became clear white survival would depend on appropriating foods, especially fish and the plants that for millennia had sustained local Aboriginal families. Abandoned and Left to Starve January 1788 – June 1790

‘Our customary method was to leave Sydney Cove about four in the afternoon and go down the harbour and fish all night from one cove to another. We made 23 hauls of the seine in one night’. Jacob Nagle, The Nagle Journal 1775 to 1841, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, New York ed. John C. Dann, 1988