Posted by Murrisk on May 13, 2001 at 21:34:49:
On May 12,1787, the first convict fleet set sail on its 8 month/14,000 mile journey to Australia carrying 736 convicts. In 1770, Captain Cook had stopped at Botany Bay but there had been no further British exploration. The unexplored continent was to become a jail. The oldest female convict was was 82 years old - her sentence was 7 years transportation for perjury. She became the first recorded suicide in Australia. The oldest man was 66 years, the youngest boy was 9 years and the youngest girl was 13 years old. At best they convicts could be described as small time criminals - minor theft, highway robbery, sheep and cattle stealing, swindling and forgery - but all drew 7 long years. On June 3, the fleet anchored at Tenerife; on August 5 it was anchored at Rio de Janeiro; by mid October the fleet was in Cape Town and on January 19, 1788, the fleet was anchored in Botany Bay. Botany Bay was judged unsuitable for a colony so the fleet moved on to Port Jackson a few miles to the north. On January 26, 1788, the fleet entered what would later become known as Sydney Harbour. The journey had taken 252 days and 48 people had died enroute. The area where the fleet anchored was called Sydney Cove in honour of Lord Sydney who had sent the fleet to Australia. The head of Sydney Cove was later renamed Circular Quay. Disembarkation began on February 6. Generous rum rations were issued and "a night of debauchery and riot ensued". No monument exists(?) to the men and women of the first convict fleet.
The first ship to carry Irish political prisoners sailed from Cove (Cobh) in August 1795. The ship carried 168 men and 73 women. Not all were political prisoners, however, politically and religously tainted the Irish formed Australia's first white minority. An estimated 30,000 men and 9,000 women were transported from Ireland between 1795 and 1868. On January 10, 1868, the last convict ship to Australia landed its cargo in Feemantle. That "cargo" included 60 Fenian prisoners.
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