225 years ago on January 26

English: Print of the ship the Charlotte from ...

English: Print of the ship the Charlotte from the First Fleet. The image was of the ship at Portsmouth (England) prior to departure in May 1787. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thomas Kenneally estimates that as many as 120,000 prisoners were sent to the American colonies between 1650 and 1775. With the loss of this outlet for their unruly, and a wish to secure the remote Australian continent for Britain, this fleet was commissioned to transport 786 men, women and children convicts. Only six ships of exploration had preceded them to the proposed settlement on the eastern Australian coast. A frightening journey into the unknown! 36 died en route, leaving 750 to face life in an untamed environment.


Australian History: The First Fleet

There were eleven ships in the First Fleet. They were all small ships that included two naval ships, six convict ships and three storeships for supplies. The ships were specially built for the long eight month voyage which had to carry prison chambers for the convicts, and also carry food and animals. The animals included sheep, goats, chickens, dogs and cats, that also needed special areas to place them. The supply ships were loaded with enough supplies for the new settlement to survive for two years, after which they would have to make use of the land, local animals, and materials. The supply ships had all sorts of things such as clothes, tools, building materials (bricks, nails, ready-cut wood), cooking equipment (including some complete cast-iron stoves), plant seeds, furniture and even a portable canvas house for the governor. The ships left from Portsmouth on 13 May 1787 and were made up of:

2 Naval Ships:

6 Convict Ships:  

  • Alexander
  • Charlotte
  • Friendship
  • Lady Penrhyn
  • Prince of Wales
  • Scarborough

3 Supply Ships:

  • Golden Grove
  • Fishburn
  • Borrowdale

The exact numbers is not exactly known but the following numbers are given in Gillen (1989):

Landed at
Port Jackson
Officials and passengers 16 14
Ships’ crews 324 269
Marines 247 245
Marines wives and children 46 54
Convicts (men) 579 543
Convicts (women) 193 189
Convicts’ children 14 18
Total 1,403 1,332

First Fleet Monument

William Bradley’s ‘Entrance of Port Jackson 27 January 1788’ records in watercolour the 11 ships of the Fleet entering Port Jackson after Botany Bay was found unsuitable.
Mitchell Library  [State Library of New South Wales, Bradley’s Journal]

Mollie Gillen. The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet (1989). Page 445

Categories: Historic world events

1 reply


  1. Grim Crims & Convicts: 1788 – 1820 (Fair Dinkum Histories) by Jackie French | Rafferty's Rules

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