The ship The Charlotte

The Charlotte leaves Portsmouth bound for Botany Bay

On the recommendation of Joseph Banks, botanist and explorer, the eastern coast of New South Wales was selected to become the new penal colony to relieve pressure on the overcrowded prisons and prison hulks in Britain.

This was an ambitious undertaking by any standard and ‘farmer’ Captain Arthur Phillip, was the man selected to command the operation.

Let us take a moment to consider what was being asked and decided upon.

Convicts from all over the counties were meant to be taken to relieve pressure on their gaols but in the event most came from gaols in London and Middlesex.

These prisoners were in a pretty awful physical condition, diseased and malnourished,  they would be at sea for months and when they arrived there was much to do to make a settlement.

Eleven ships finally sailed from Portsmouth on 13th May 1787.

Approximately 775 listed convicts were on board

To find out more facts about the first fleet, there is nowhere better to start than Project Gutenberg Australia 

To see contemporary news reports of the sailing visit The London Gazette and see what you can search out

It seems amazing to us that any of them managed to complete the journey, it truly was an epic voyage

To find out what ‘epic’ journeys your own ancestors made, let us help you to create your own unique geomap for your family history. Go to Intriguing Family History to find out more


Botany Bay, New South Wales, Australia


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