The First Fleet consisted of eleven ships sent to Australia
, with those on board hoping to establish
a new penal colony
. At this time Britain
was overrun by crime, due to the agrarian revolution
and a huge population increase, gaols
were overcrowded and crime was still on the rise -- the British
had nowhere to imprison convicts
. Eventually it was decided that a penal colony
be established in the land discovered by Captain James Cook
In 1786 the British government appointed Captain Arthur Phillip to assemble the fleet and be governor of the new colony. Assembling the fleet itself was an enormous task; he had to organise two years supply of food, clothing and shelter for over a thousand people. Phillip tried to make sure that the fleet brought with them a sufficient amount of supplies yet the government did not want to spend too much money on a convict settlement. There was also no guarantee that the newly found land would be suitable for farming, so everything that they might need had to be brought with them.
The fleet was made up of two naval vessels, six convict ships and three store ships. They carried 759 convicts (564 male, 192 female), accompanied by 550 Marine guards and their families, alongside a few civil officers. These ships were:
The Alexander - the largest transport ship
The Prince of Wales - which carried 49 female and 1 male convict
The Lady Penhryn - carried 101 female convicts
The Friendship - carried 76 male and 21 female convicts
The Scarborough - sailed in both the first and second fleets
The Charlotte - carried 88 male and 20 female convicts
H.M.S. Supply - smallest ship, first to arrive
H.M.S. Sirius - flagship of the first fleet
The Fishburn - One of the three storeships
The Borrowdale - a storeship
The Golden Grove - another storeship
On May 13th, 1787, the First Fleet departed early Sunday morning from Portsmouth, England and began their journey to their mysterious new homeland on the other side of the Earth. When they arrived they would be completely isolated -- they were unable to call for assistance if it was needed and there was no way they could go back home.
Sailors and convicts always seemed ill, but only 23 people died on the way. The conditions were actually excellent when compared to later fleets.
The voyage was rather long and unpleasant. Along the way food supplies were replinished at Tenerife, Rio De Janeiro and Cape Town. H.M.S. Supply first arrived at Botany Bay on January 18th 1788, and over the next couple of days the rest of the fleet arrived.
However Botany Bay was considered unsuitable due to lack of fresh water, so the Fleet moved on North to Port Jackson, arriving on 26th of January 1788. This day is now known throughout Australia as 'Australia Day'.