Image: First Fleet

First Fleet

First Fleet, first shipment of British convict settlers to Botany Bay in Australia, under the policy of transportation, or the removal of criminals to a distant place. The original group of convicts sent under the leadership of Captain Arthur Phillip sailed from Portsmouth on May 13, 1787, as part of an 11-strong fleet consisting of two Royal Navy ships "Sirius" and "Supply;" six transports "Alexander, Lady Penrhyn, Charlotte, Scarborough, Friendship," and "Prince of Wales;" and three store vessels "Fishburn, Golden Grove," and "Borrowdale." It was this convoy, which, some time after its arrival in Botany Bay, came to be known as the First Fleet. The term was later extended to connote not only the ships and voyage but also the people involved. First Fleetera contemporary usagerefers to an Australian who can trace ancestry back to a passenger in the First Fleet.

Assembly of ships

Assembly of ships, supplies, crews, and other requisites began during the winter of 1786 to 1787, but the operation fell quickly into disarray until taken over by Arthur Phillip, whose leadership qualities and prodigious capacity for organization transformed the whole enterprise. His discipline continued to be influential after embarkation. An extremely dangerous 24,000-km (15,000-mi) voyage via Tenerife, Rio de Janeiro, and Cape Town, in relatively small ships, was accomplished in about 250 days with the loss of only 31 lives out of nearly 1,500 passengers and crew. More than 1,450 passengers safely arrived at Botany Bay on January 18, 1788, but the fleet moved north, founding its first colony at Port Jackson on January 26. One of the best contemporary accounts of this extraordinary voyage is Captain-Lieutenant Watkyn Tench`s "A Narrative of The Expedition to Botany Bay" (1789).

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