John White

Ship surgeon
Arrived on: Charlotte
Left colony: 17 December 1794
The tireless concern of Chief Surgeon John White and his assistants on board the 11 First Fleet ships was crucial to the ultimate success of the long voyage.

Unusual to voyages at the time, he insisted that the convicts were provided with fresh food to ward off scurvy and declared that they should be allowed on deck for periods of time ‘in order that they might breathe a purer air, as nothing would conduce more to the preservation of their health’. The number of people who died during the fleet’s passage was remarkably low for the time – in his journal, White reported only 48 deaths among the approximately 1500 convicts, sailors, officers, marines, wives and children on board.

When the fleet arrived in Botany Bay on 20 January 1788, White wrote with relief,

To see all the ships safe in their destined port, without ever having, by any accident, been one hour separated, and all the people in as good health as could be expected or hoped for, after so long a voyage, was a sight truly pleasing, and at which every heart must rejoice.

Source: John White, Journal of a voyage to New South Wales, J Debrett, London, 1790.