First Fleet Ships
At dawn on 13 May 1787 HMS Sirius gave the signal to weigh anchor and the First Fleet embarked. The convoy consisted of two naval ships, six convict transports and three storeships to carry the food and supplies necessary for establishing a settlement. Crowded on board were some 1500 people – marines, officers, seamen, their wives and children and at least 775 prisoners of the Crown. The departing convicts fretted over ‘the impracticability of returning home, the dread of a sickly passage, and the fearful prospect of a distant and barbarous country’ (Watkin Tench, 1789). They were unwilling participants in this colonial enterprise.
Altogether they formed a little squadron of eleven sail
Arthur Phillip, first governor of New South Wales, 1789
At journey’s end, eight months and one week later, the successful arrival of the First Fleet in Botany Bay was cause for celebration. All ships of the First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay on 19 and 20 January 1788, before shifting to the superior location of Port Jackson, present-day Sydney, on 26 January. But to the Aboriginal peoples looking on, the arrival of the ships marked the beginning of an invasion that would catastrophically affect their lives.