Between November and December 1787, as it sailed through the Southern Ocean, the First Fleet was battered by the strong westerly winds known as the ‘roaring forties’. On New Year’s Eve 1787 Surgeon Arthur Bowes Smyth described the uncomfortable conditions all on board Lady Penrhyn endured:
‘… many of the women were wash’d out of their births by the seas … This night was a dreadful one indeed, the sea was mountains high, sometimes it seem’d as if the ship was going over. The chicken coops were on the round house & fasten’d very securely … gave way & came with such violence against the side as to drive the goat house all in pieces & lamed the goat & kidd –’
On New Year’s Day the severe weather continued:
‘… the sea ran so very high & we ship’d such heavy seas so often as made it absolutely necessary to clap the close hatches over the convicts otherwise the ship wd. have been in danger of being sunk … just as we had dined, a most tremendous sea broke in at the weather Scuttle of the great Cabin & ran wt. a great stream all across the cabin, & as the door of my cabin happen’d not to be quite close shut the water half fil it; the sheets & blankets being all on a flow. … No sleep all this night’.