Posts Tagged ‘smallpox’


Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

1788 – 18 January, Botany Bay: At 2.15pm on 18 January 1788 HMS Supply, one (1) of a large armed convoy of eleven (11) ships known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’ with a complement of 1500 souls (one-half convicted criminals) anchored in the entrance to Botany Bay, New Holland now Australia.

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

See: Abandoned and Left To Starve Sydney January 1788 to June 1790

When no supply ships came from England it became clear survival would depend on appropriating fish and crustacean, the local Aborigines’ primary source of protein.

During Sydney’s summer months fish was plentiful, HMS Sirius and Supply’s trawling nets were deployed daily, as much as ‘400 hundred weight of fish being taken up…’

Weeks passed to months and still no ships. Winter came fish was scarce, two (2) populations – one indigenous one introduced – competed with increasing hostility for the same resources.

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.

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



Monday, November 14th, 2016

1789 – April, Sydney: ‘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

Smallpox inoculation, using dried scab-matter was widespread in the British army of the eighteenth century. It served a dual purpose; to protect – to destroy.

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

1787 – August, Brazil: When the First Fleet en-route to Botany Bay put into Rio de Janeiro for supplies in August 1787 Joseph Jefferies, a North American Indian born on New York’s Staten Island, joined the crew of HMS Supply. The young adventurer died of smallpox at Sydney on or about the 10th of May 1789. (more…)


Monday, January 25th, 2016

1789, April: ‘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…By a strange coincidence, smallpox reached Port Jackson at about the same time as the First Fleet’. Cassandra Pybus, Black Founders, UNSW Press, 2006 

1788 – January, Port Jackson: The ‘First Fleet’ a large armed squadron, eleven (11) British ships with a complement of 1500 invaded New Holland. In January 1788 Commander Captain Arthur Phillip RN established a beachhead at Sydney Cove deep within Port Jackson. See: Australia – Britain By A Short Half-Head Captain Arthur Phillip & Comte Jean-Francois La Perouse



Friday, January 22nd, 2016


‘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. In 1763, in the earliest recorded deliberate release of a virus, Sir Jeffrey Amherst, British Commander-in-Chief authorised the distribution of smallpox-contaminated blankets to native Americans who were harassing European settlers around the garrison at Fort Pitt in Pennsylvania’. Professor Dorothy H. Crawford, Invisible Enemies, Edinburgh University Press, 2001.

1763 – America: British General Thomas Gage served as second-in-command to General Amherst during the Indian Wars. In 1763 North American Indian tribes united under Chief Pontiac and moved against the British.

At first their efforts were successful but later when laying siege to Fort Pitt, now Pittsburgh, they were out-gunned and not only out-gunned: “We gave them two Blankets and an Handkerchief out of the Small Pox Hospital, I hope it will have the desired effect”.

General Gage was implicated in distributing ‘smallpox-contaminated blankets’.



Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

1790 – 11 December, Sydney Cove: ‘Put ten [10] to death…bring in the heads of the slain…bring away two [2] prisoners…I am resolved to execute the prisoners…in the most public and exemplary manner’. General Orders, Governor Arthur Phillip RN to Marine Captain Watkin Tench. Cited in Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

1889 – April 3, United Kingdom: Judicial Committee of the Privy Council; Lord Watson, Lord Fitzgerald, Lord Hobhouse, Lord MacNaghton, Sir William Grove, Cooper V Stuart [1889] 14 AC ruled; ‘it [New South Wales] was peacefully annexed to the British Dominion’.

1790 – December: ‘Military and police raids against dissenting Aboriginal groups lasted from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries…These raids had commenced by December 1790’. Professor Bruce Kercher, History of Law in Australia, Allen and Unwin, 1995

Australia’s First Peoples can, with laser accuracy, plot their near annihilation from the raids of December 1790; ‘as if the invasion of their land would call for any other response but armed resistance’. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia 1788-1870, Kangaroo Press, 1986



Saturday, April 17th, 2010

‘Before leaving Botany Bay 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

1787 – 13 May, Portsmouth: A large convoy eleven (11) ships commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip RN, with a complement of fifteen hundred (1500) souls – one-half convicted criminals (580 male – 193 female) – sailed from England to New Holland now Australia.

‘In determining the daily ration no distinction was drawn between the marine and the [male] convicts …the standard adopted was that of the troops serving in the West Indies’. Wilfrid Oldham, Britain’s Convicts to the Colonies, ed. Hugh Oldham, Library of Australian History, 1990‘. See: All The King’s Men

1788 – 20 January, Botany Bay: Between 18-20 January 1788 the fleet known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’, anchored in Botany Bay. Almost immediately Supply played-out her trawling nets.

See: Lieutenant William Dawes & The Eternal Flame

‘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 – 26 January, Port Jackson: Six (6) days later – 26 January – the fleet sailed nine (9) miles – 14 km – north to Port Jackson and anchored in Sydney Cove where military and naval bases established sea-supremacy over the southern oceans.

‘New Holland is a good blind, then when, we want to add to the military strength of India’. Anon. Historical Records of New South Wales.

Securing safe alternate strategic, logistical routes to and from India, Asia and China guaranteed Britain a blockade breaker in time of war and in peace time secured her profitable trade routes.

1788 – 6 February, Sydney: One thousand (1000) English men and two hundred and twenty-one (221) English women had disembarked at Sydney Cove by the 6th February 1788 and there they remained condemned to the ‘misery and horror’ of absolute isolation.

Abandoned and left to slow unremitting starvation they would not see another English ship or hear a word from England until June 1790.  See: Abandoned and Left To Starve Sydney January 1788 to June 1790

1788 –  February 26, Sydney Cove: Thomas Barrrett; records show the engraver of white Australia’s most iconic artefact – the Botany Bay Medallion – with three (3) friends was accused of robbing the government store-house ‘on the very day’ they received the full ration.

1788 – February 27: Found guilty on the trumped-up charge all were found guilty but only Barrett would hang. See: The Ketch Connection, Thomas Barrett 1788, Michael Barrett 1868, Robert Ryan 1967 



Monday, February 9th, 2009

‘It is probable the ships’ company will be on salt provisions for some months after they arrive on the coast of New South Wales, [I] will be glad of two hundred pounds [91kg]of portable soup in addition to fifty pounds [23kg] already supply’d. Arthur Phillip to Admiralty, 22nd March 1787, Historical Records of New South Wales.

‘Portable soup’ made from; ‘all the offals of oxen killed in London for the use of  the navy’ was a dried concoction capable of re-constitution.

1787 – 13 May, Portsmouth: Led by flagship HMS Sirius a large armed squadron of eleven (11) ships commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip RN with a complement of 1500 souls, known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’, sailed from England to Botany Bay on the south eastern coast of ‘New South Wales’ in mid May 1787.

1788 – 18/20 January, Botany Bay: Via Tenerife, Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town after eight (8) months voyaging, within thirty-six (36) hours between 18-20 January the entire English Fleet were riding at anchor inside Botany Bay.

1788 – 24 January, Botany Bay: La Boussole and L’Astrolabe, two (2) French ships commanded by Comte Jean- Francois La Perouse appeared in the entrance to the bay. The French battling high winds and rolling seas, sailed south to shelter from the storm and seek safety from Sirius’s guns. See: Eyes Wide Shut – A Military Campaign and Arthur Phillip

‘Phillip ordered a party to be sent [there] Point Sutherland to hoist English colours. He also stipulated that the move to Port Jackson be kept secret’. John Moore, The First Fleet Marines 1786-1792, Queensland University Press, 1987

1788 – 25 January, Port Jackson: Captain Phillip aboard HMS Supply quit Botany Bay ordering the fleet follow when bad weather abated. Just as the sun was setting – 7 pm – Supply anchored in Sydney Cove.

Situated deep within Port Jackson, guarded by towering headlands ‘here’ Phillip reported to London ‘a thousand Ship of Sail of the Line may ride in the most perfect Security’. Historical Records of New South Wales

‘When Phillip planted the flag at Sydney Cove in 1788 he was not claiming the land away from the aboriginal people but to make sure the French did not to make the claim first’. Professor Larissa Behrendt,The Honest History Book, ed. David Stephens & Alison Broinowski, New South Publishing, 2017

1788 – 26 January, Sydney Cove: At first light –  26 January 1788 – Captain Phillip, some marines and convicts disembarked from Supply.

English Colours’ the Union Jack were hoisted from the arm of a hastily erected flagpole to signify that, in the race for New Holland England had vanquished her arch-enemy thereby frustrating France’s long-standing ambition to dominate the Indian and Southern Oceans.

By night-fall – 26 January – the remaining English ships were anchored alongside HMS Supply. See: Britain by a Short Half-Head Captain Arthur Phillip & Comte Jean-Francoise La Perouse

1788 – 7 February, Sydney Cove: Nigh on two (2) weeks later – 7 February –  after unending toil and, with all the ‘pomp and circumstance of glorious war’ Governor Phillip, without consent of its Peoples or entering into treaty with them as required by international law where a territory was inhabited, claimed sovereignty over New Holland in the name of His Majesty King George III of England.