Sydney Cove – July, 1788: ‘Yesterday twenty [20] of the natives came down to the beach, each armed with a number of spears, and seized on a good part of the fish caught in the seine [trawling nets]…several stood at a small distance with their spears poised ready to throw them if any resistance was made’. Governor Arthur Phillip to Under-Secretary Evan Nepean, July 10, 1788 See: Abandoned and Left to Starve at Sydney Cove from January 1788 to June 1790


England -1787: Commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip RN the ‘First Fleet’ – a large armed squadron of  eleven (11) British ships – charged with the invasion and conquest of New Holland, now Australia – sailed from Portsmouth on the 13th May 1787.

Up to 1,500 Macassans a year would reach [northern] Australia and they did influence the Aborigines by trading iron axes, tobacco, cloth, knives and glass. They taught the Aboriginal of those parts how to make dug-out canoes, more substantial than the simple [Sydney] water-craft of stringy-bark’. Stewart Harris, Treaty, It’s Coming Yet, 1979  

Botany Bay, New Holland- 18/20 January, 1788:  The First Fleet’s 1500 English men, women and children arrived at Botany Bay in January 1788 did not find the local Eora Peoples familiar with iron axes, knives, tobacco, cloth or glass.  When introduced the locals valued them highly – especially the hatchet.

Port Jackson – 26 January 1788:  Governor Arthur Phillip RN established a permanent English settlement nine (9) miles north of Botany Bay at Sydney Cove deep within Port Jackson.

Sydney Cove – 7 February 1788 – Proclamation Day:  Governor Phillip, without consent or treaty, proclaimed British Sovereignty over New Holland from ‘Cape York in the northern most extremity…to South Cape’. See: Australia – Britain By A Short Half-Head Captain Arthur Phillip & Comte Jean-Francois La Perouse

By a strange coincidence, smallpox reached Port Jackson at about the same time as the First Fleet’. Cassandra Pybus, Black Founders, UNSW Press, 2006 

Botany Bay: Twenty (20) years earlier, 28 April 1770, Lieutenant James Cook RN and Joseph Banks, the noted Royal Society botanist, while voyaging in HMS Endeavour entered Botany Bay, stayed nine (9) days, before sailing north and continuing to chart the coastline of eastern Australia.

‘Their Canoes’ Banks noted ‘were the only things in which we saw a manifest difference between the Southern and Northern people..’large canoes fitted with sails and fighting stages capable of holding 30 men each’ the Sydney craft ‘canoes being nothing more than a large piece of bark tied up at both ends with vines’.

In 1788 Marine Captain Watkin Tench’s  initial assessment of the Sydney canoes as ‘despicable’ echoed Joseph Bank’s observation. Later Tench  came to value their shallow draught and superior buoyancy as far better suited to local conditions than the invaders’ heavier, unwieldy, wooden row-boats.

Both Cook and Banks also reported at length the Aborigines preference for nakedness.  Neither made mention of pockmarks the unmistakable signature of a previous episode of smallpox.


‘It is true, that our surgeons had brought out variolous [smallpox] matter in bottles’. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

Sydney –  April 1789: ‘April is the cruellest month’ and so it proved.  When the smallpox virus appeared among the Eora Peoples in April 1789 one-half of local Aboriginal families died.

‘Smallpox had decimated the indigenous population probably not brought by the Europeans, as first feared, but possible introduced by Indonesian traders visiting the far northern coast of Australia’. Pybus. op.cit.

How can the presence of hard evidence – ‘bottles [of]’variolous [scab-matter] matter [was] brought [from] England’ be dismissed so  arrogantly ?

‘A strange coincidence’  Casandra  Pybus, the influential Australian historian would have us believe, simply does not cut it.

It has also been suggested, the outbreak stemmed from its appearance at Samartra in the early 1780s.

However given the way smallpox expresses; on the soles of the feet, palms of the hands, face and eyes – affecting sight –  swollen mucous membranes leading to extreme thirst and difficulty in swallowing, make such suggestions highly problematic.

Additionally, given the great distance, terrain and physical difficulties, when added to strict protocols observed by Aboriginals entering the country of another clan for either peaceful or hostile purposes, make it well nigh impossible for Aborigines to travel from the extreme north of the continent to its far south, to coincide neatly within the known time-frame.

The absence of canoes similar to large northern craft is strong evidence; the ‘tyranny of distance’ protected Aborigines in the far south of the continent from incursions, tribal or otherwise, from its far north.


Timor – 1791: It is to Mary Bryant a most remarkable young convict woman that we owe the description of the large Carpentarian craft.

In March 1791 Mary, Will her convict husband, their two (2) small children Charlotte and Emmanuel, with seven (7) male convicts, stole a boat – Governor Arthur Phillip’s own cutter – escaped Sydney and rowed  to Timor.  See: The Great Escape

What followed was an epic tale of tragedy and triumph. Before journey’s end both children, Charlotte aged four (4) and baby Emanuel died, as did Mary’s husband William Bryant.

London -1793: Mary lived to stand again in the dock of the Old Bailey in 1793 with the four (4) remaining survivors charged with ‘return before expiry’.

Since the Transportation Act of 1717-18 if a convicted criminal, reprieved death on condition of banishment from ‘the realm’return[ed] before expiry’ they were hunted down and executed. See: Pandora’s Box

James Boswell the famed English diarist and lawyer fought for and, against all odds, won freedom for the ‘Botany Bay Escapees’. See: Boswell Goes Into Bat for the Botany Bay Escapees


In America Britain’s use of smallpox as a biological weapon, at Fort Pitt in 1760s – Seven Years’ War 1756-63 – and, during America’s Revolutionary War of Independence (1775-1783), remains a subject of interest.

‘Nothing instilled fear in American soldiers and civilians so much as the prospect that the British might use smallpox as a weapon war…Rumours of germ warfare at Boston had circulated as early as March 1775.

By year’s end, [General] Thomas Gage had turned over his command to Sir William Howe, but talk of germ warfare had failed to subside instead, the evidence mounted’. Professor Elizabeth Fenn, Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-1782,  2001 

Australian historians make do with second-hand assertions; a disease ‘thought to be smallpox’  ‘probably’ ‘possibly’. Even when acknowledged, its appearance is characterised a ‘strange coincidence’.

Sydney – April 1789: A smallpox epidemic struck the Aboriginal population around Sydney. Inexplicably, the epidemic did not affect the European population, but [Governor] Phillip estimated that it resulted in the death of 50% of the local Aboriginal community’. People of Australia, Macquarie Reference Series, Ed. Bryce Fraser, 1998

The devastating consequences of smallpox; ‘massive disruption…destabilised society’ are not in dispute. Neither are the circumstances surrounding its appearance; starvation and a desperate struggle for survival in both black and white populations. See: Smallpox – Dead Aborigines Don’t Eat

‘The epidemic not only killed a significant proportion of the indigenous population but also destabilised society…there is no easy answer to the fraught quest of [Aboriginal] clan boundaries in Sydney, particularly because an epidemic in 1789 caused massive disruption of the indigenous peoples in the area‘. Pauline Curby, Randwick [A History], 2010.

Yet its origin remains contested; ‘speculation that has taken attention away from the devastating effects on the society and culture of the Sydney people’. Stephen Gapps, The Sydney Wars, 1788-1817, NewSouth Press, 2018

The circumstances abandonment, starvation, whte survival, although manifestly obvious, are simply swept under the carpet.

‘They [Aborigines] are not pleased with our remaining amongst them, as they see we deprive them of fish, which is almost their only support. These people last summer would neither eat shark or stingray, but the scarcity of fish in the winter, I believe obliges them to eat anything that affords the smallest nourishment’. Arthur Phillip dispatch to Lord Sydney, 28 September 1788  


‘Captain John Hunter, commander of the Sirius, wrote in his journal that initially the tribes of the Port Jackson region met the settlers of the First Fleet with almost unrelieved hostility…Once smallpox entered the equation this changed. Perhaps half of the [Aboriginal] population of the Port Jackson region died in a few months’. Jeffrey Grey, A Military History of Australia, The British Period 1788-1870, Cambridge University Press, 2001

Australia: The lives of  Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples to-day stand testament to ‘massive [biological] disruption [that] destabilised [their] society.

‘Galgala [smallpox] shaped the next few years of conflict, if not the outcome of the wars, and was a critical factor in the British military occupation of the Sydney region’. Gapps. ibid.

Neither Britain or non- Indigenous Australia show interest in smallpox 1789.  However that might be about to change. ‘Most of the world is’ as an unintended consequence of eradication 1980 ‘unvaccinated’ and ‘highly susceptible’.  White skin offers no barrier.

‘If you think anthrax is a terrible bio-weapon, it’s nothing compared to smallpox. This disease has been eradicated from the world so most of the population is now highly susceptible to it. According to Dr. Frank Fenner: ‘It has about a 20% fatality rate in unvaccinated persons, higher in children and old people – and most of the world is unvaccinated’.

The Australian mouse that roared.

‘Australian scientists who made a killer virus by accident have raised the spectre of biological weapons in the hands of terrorists or rogue states…They inserted a gene called interleukin-4 (IL-4) into the virus because this would boost antibody production.

The result astonished them: the IL-4 killed the mice by shutting down a vital part of their immune system. It also made the engineered virus unnaturally resistant to normal vaccines’.

One scientist proffered: ‘It would be safe to assume that if some idiot did put human IL – 4 into human smallpox, they’d increase the lethality quiet dramatically’.


Smallpox was the first disease to be successfully fought on a global scale.  Two (2) reservoirs of live virus were retained. In America at the Atlanta Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the State of Georgia.

Russia at the State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology (Vector), Koltsovo, Novosibirsk, in Siberia.

2019 – Koltsovo , 17 September: A gas explosion sparked a fire at the Russian laboratory housing ‘viruses ranging from smallpox to Ebola’. Russian spokespersons ‘no worries’ !!!!!!

2020  Covid19 – ‘Massive disruption…destabilised society’ – Wow !!

Smallpox is the only virus to be eliminated by way of a vaccine.  In 1980 The United Nations World Health Organisation officially declared smallpox eradicated.  


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