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Summary:  A fleet of 10 English ships led by Arthur Philip which settled the Colony of Australia

Date:  Arrived in Australia January A.D. 1788

Location:  Travelling from Britain to Australia


- Introduction -

    For many years Great Britain transported convicts to thirteen established colonies in America.  However, when in 1775 a rebellion broke out, they lost control of all these colonies.  The British government needed to quickly create a new colony elsewhere.

    A young man named Joseph Banks, who had sailed on board the Endeavour, suggested that they use Botany Bay in New Holland.  The decision was made and preparations began, to send an expedition to this unexplored land.


    In May of 1787 a fleet under the command of Arthur Philip departed from England.  The fleet consisted of seven hundred and nine people (565 men, 153 women and 11 children) plus two hundred fifty three officers, sailors and their families (recorded numbers vary).  These people sailed in six transports with a two warship escort and had two supply ships in support.  


    This 'first fleet' arrived at Botany Bay in January 1788 but found themselves in an swampy, unfriendly land in which fresh water was hard to find.  Philip quickly made the decision to relocate the settlement.


    Philip set out with a group in row boats to investigate Port Jackson.  There was likely a gasp from the men as they found themselves gazing on a magnificent natural harbour.  After surveying the area, Philip selected an appropriate bay which he named Sydney Cove.  He then returned to Botany Bay to prepare the fleet.


    On 26th January 1788, the Union Jack was raised at Sydney Cove.  Philip then set about the difficult task of establishing a settlement.

    The new colony at Sydney Cove immediately began to struggle.  Lazy, undisciplined convicts often refused to work because of the inadequate tools provided.  One ship left the colony to find better land on Norfolk Island and another sailed for England to get help.


    After two years of rationing, a well stocked supply ship arrived from England.  The dire situation steadily improved and soon, under Philip's excellent direction, the settlement began to flourish.  However, Governor Philip whose health had suffered since the difficult times, was forced to return to England.


    Thus, the first settlement in the Great South Land was established in the place that is now called Sydney.

Written and Researched By

Cody B. Mitchell

The first fleet was a settlement fleet which set sail for Australia in May 1787.  It was made up of ten ships and had 709 settlers on-board.
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