The First Fleet (The Sketchbook Project 2013)

Penny Hetherington

Wendouree, Australia

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For this year’s sketchbook tour I decided to focus on the history of British Colonisation of Australia on January 26th 1788. The book is currently on tour around the US. Inside the book I wrote:

The First Fleet:
In England during the 1770’s times were tough and many people lived in poverty. To survive, many individuals took to the life of crime, such as: pick pocketing, highway burglary, or jewellery theft. Some offences were only minor, committed by ordinary people who were driven to steal food out of hunger.

Many of England’s convicts were sent to America, but once the United States claimed its independence from England in 1776, the colony decided they did not want any more of their criminals. Crime in Britain was on the increase due to its poverty and their gaols or hulks (old sailing ships used to house convicts) were becoming overcrowded. This led to the British government deciding to establish a penal colony on the land (known as New Holland at the time) that Captain James Cook reported earlier as being perfect for settlement in 1770.

After months of building the 11 ships, Governor Arthur Phillip and his sailors, loaded the ships with their own family members, passengers, livestock, convicts, food supplies, agricultural tools and supplies, weapons, first aid and cooking equipment.

The fleet of 11 ships left Portsmouth, England on 13th May 1787, stopping at countries such as Tenerife, Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town for food and supplies. Governor Phillip was firm but fair with his convicts. He made sure that their health was taken care of by stopping at Santa Cruz for a supply of oranges (vitamin C) when scurvy had broken out amongst his voyagers. The 8 month trip from England to Botany Bay (New South Wales, Australia) was long and treacherous. During the journey, lives were lost, however considering this, the trip was successful.

When ships landed in Botany Bay on the 18th January 1788, Governor Phillip decided that the land there was not good enough to work with because the trees there were impossible to chop down, the soil was not fertile enough to grow anything and the water supply was limited. For the next few days, Phillip and his crew sailed on further in search of suitable land. On 26th January 1788 at Port Jackson, (NSW, Australia) the Governor felt that he had found the most suitable area to build a new colony. This is where the history of Australia first began and we Aussies today celebrate ‘Australia Day’!

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