‘The body of the [Aboriginal] woman showed that famine, superadded to disease, had occasioned her deathIt is true our surgeons had brought out variolous (smallpox) matter in bottles’. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. L.F. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1961

Botany Bay – January 1788: At 2.15pm on 18 January 1788 HMS Supply, first of a large armed expeditionary force of eleven (11) ships, known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’ with an overwhelmingly  male complement of 1500 souls (1300 men, 221 women) and fifty (50) free children anchored in the entrance to Botany Bay, New Holland known now as Australia.

The population of the area had doubled overnight as Governor Phillip estimated the local Aboriginals of the area numbered 1500.

‘The main battle was about having enough to eat’. The Story of Australia, Don Watson 1984

Captain Arthur Phillip RN the fleet commander had been assured more convicts and supplies would ‘follow shortly’. When nothing arrived by mid-1788 it became clear  white survival would depend on appropriating kangaroo, fish and crustacean, primary sources of protein for the local peoples of the area. See: Abandoned and Left To Starve Sydney from January 1788 to June 1790

‘From time to time throughout history, peoples and governments around the world have used micro-organisms as efficient and cost-effective weapons of mass destruction’. Professor Dorothy H. Crawford, The Invisible Enemy, Edinburgh University Press, 2000


In summer months fish was plentiful. HMS Sirius and Supply’s trawling nets were deployed daily;‘400 hundred weight of fish being taken up’.

Fish become scarce when the weather cooled. Two (2) populations competed without equity and with increasing hostility for the same resources.

 In mid August 1788 Governor Phillip ordered Captain John Hunter RN prepare HMS Sirius, the fleet flagship, for a lone perilous voyage to Africa to buy food and medicines from the Dutch.

‘The passage was estimated to take six (6) months to the Cape of Good Hope and back.

Africa: Sirius departed Sydney on the 2nd of October 1788. Hunter chose the route taken by Captain James Cook on his second voyage.  Her scurvy ridden crew would battle the treacherous Southern Oceans with its ‘islands of ice’.  Sail tumultuous Drake Passage, round Cape Horn to reach Cape Town.


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

The virus wiped out 50% of Sydney’s First Nations’ families; ‘inexplicably [it] did not affect the European population’.

‘An infectious disease which immunises those who survive, and which returns to a given community at intervals of five (5) to ten (10) years, automatically becomes a childhood disease…where a disease strikes a virgin community…old and young die indiscriminately’. William McNeill Plagues and People, Doubleday & Co. 1976

The majority of the  First Fleet’s five hundred and eighty (580) male convict combatants and their military guards came from densely populated London and urban areas where smallpox was endemic.

Therefore some ‘First Fleet’ adults though not all, by way of prior ‘natural’ infection, would have acquired life-long immunity frooom the virus.

In April 1789 however upwards of fifty (50) under-nourished English children and infants, as many as twenty (20) born during the voyage, would have been as susceptible as local black children yet the virus did not attack white children.


Eighteen (18) years previously – 29 April 1770 – Captain James Cook RN with Joseph Banks, the noted Royal Society botanist, on Cook’s first  HMS Endeavour voyage, entered Botany Bay and stayed nine (9) days.

Banks spent every daylight hour ashore.  Both Cook and Banks remarked on the Aborigines preference for nakedness. They recorded detailed physical descriptions of men, women and children.

Ceremonial scarring, old and recent battle scars were noted, but neither Cook nor Banks made mention of pock-marking, tell-tale evidence of previous exposure to smallpox. See: Smallpox – Dead Aborigines Don’t Eat

‘Since survivors from smallpox infection acquired life-time immunity, it follows that no epidemic could have occurred for the preceding 70-odd years before 1789, taking us back to near the beginning of the 18th century’. Professor Noel.G. Butlin, Close Encounters of the Worst Kind, Working Papers in Economic History, Australian National University, 1982.

Likewise fleet journals are full of references to the Aborigines’ nakedness. Not one of the eight (8) fleet physicians made mention of pock-marks.

It is true our surgeons had brought out variolous (smallpox) matter in bottles’. Tench. ibid.

Familiar with the disease they had no hesitation diagnosing smallpox as the rampant illness; ‘which our former observations had led us to suppose them strangers’. Tench. ibid.

Variolous matter for use by inoculation was brought out from England in bottles with the First Fleet but it is not known whether this material was ever used. If it was, it may have been the source of the disastrous epidemic of smallpox amongst the Aborigines in 1789′. Dr Bryan Gandevia,Tears Often Shed, Child Health and Welfare in Australia from 1788, Pergamon, 1978.

At Sydney smallpox expressed as William McNeill described when the ‘disease strikes a virgin community…old and young died indiscriminately’.

‘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 seem inexplicable. Whatever might be the cause the existence of the malady could no longer be doubted’. Tench. ibid.


The virus was impossibly selective; ‘Not one case of the disorder occurred among the white people either afloat or on shore although there were several children in the settlement; but a North American Indian…took the disease and died’. Samuel Bennett, Australian Discovery and Colonisation, Vol. 1 to 1800, facsimile edition, 1981

Joseph Jefferies  was born on New York’s Staten Island. Britain used the island as its main northern naval base during the recent American War of Independence 1775-1783.

Brazil: When the ‘First Fleet’ put into Rio de Janeiro for supplies in August – September 1787 Jefferies ‘a North  American Indian’ had joined as crew of HMS Supply. See: Joseph Jefferies – From New York to Rio and Old Sydney Town – One, Then There Was None

Norfolk Island: There is no record of smallpox reaching the island where, in February 1788, a satellite settlement had been established to prevent the French from claiming the island as well as to seed a supplementary  white population.

Sydney: Soon after his ship HMS Supply returned from a relief-run to the island Joseph Jefferies fell ill. Diagnosed with smallpox he appears in the mortality returns of May 1789.


It is impossible to contemplate the condition or the prospects of that unfortunate race…the Aborigines of New Holland… without the deepest commiseration. Still it is impossible that the government should forget that the original aggression was ours’. Lord John Russell to Sir George Gipps, 21 December 1838, Historical Records of Australia, Series I, Vol. XX

There is a wealth of evidence the smallpox virus that caused massive devastation among Sydney’s Gadigal families was ‘brought out from England in bottles with the First Fleet’ .  See: Smallpox A Lethal Weapon Boston 1775 – Sydney 1789


‘The extent to which it [decline in the Aboriginal population] came unintentionally from the white presence or from any other factors, including smallpox from visiting Indonesian fishermen, is debatable and historians tend to avoid the subject as too complicated’. Robert Murray, To the Land, Boys, We Live In Quadrant January-February, No. 543, Quadrant Magazine, Sydney, 2018 

‘too complicated’ just does not cut it. Neither does blaming ‘visiting Indonesian fishermen’.  See: A Very Convenient Theory  – It was the Macassans Stupid.  

At the time of the 1789 outbreak when;‘inexplicably…. the epidemic did not affect the European population’ an unknown number of forged keys were in circulation.See: Saving Lieutenant Collins

Motive: White survival 

Means:variolous matter in bottles’

Opportunity: Nothing in storage was secure as forged keys wee still in circulation. See: Catch 22

Method: It is time to take the forensic knife to smallpox 1789.  Britain and Australia share a history -history with a huge chunk missing.

Australia: In 1803 the first doses of Edward Jenner’s cow-pox vaccine arrived in Sydney aboard the Corromandal. The life-saving ‘lymph’ -as it was known – was advertised and made available to the white population.


In 1980 The World Health Organisation declared smallpox eradicated.Vaccination was no longer required.Therefore Australia may have a very small amount of smallpox vaccine reserved for essential military and heath personnel.

In a contested decision two (2) sources of the live virus were retained.

One resides with the Russians at the State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology at Koltsovo.

America’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia holds the other.

2020:  Along came Covid 19 and ‘inexplicably did not affect the European population’ although demonstratively absurd is still ignored.

2022: See: Catch 22

In 2001 the CSIRO – Australia’s principal animal research laboratory – using gene technology – produced a smallpox virus claimed to be  ‘unnaturally resistant to normal vaccines’.   The Mouse That Roared (pending)

‘From time to time throughout history, peoples and governments around the world have used micro-organisms as efficient and cost-effective weapons of mass destruction’. Professor Dorothy H. Crawford, The Invisible Enemy, Edinburgh University Press, 2000

The world has again entered an era of moral turpitude. Once more the dark shadow of biological warfare hangs in the air. Smallpox may again overwhelm unprotected populations.See: Proximity – Not Distance – Drove Britain’s Invasion of New Holland

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