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The First Fleet, commanded by Sir Arthur Phillip, was the name given to the group of 11 ships that departed from England in 1787. The hope was to establish a penal colony in Australia (known at the time as Van Diemen’s Land).
See the fact file below for more information on the First Fleet or alternatively, you can download our 21-page First Fleet worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
FAST FACTS ABOUT THE FIRST FLEET
- The goal of the First Fleet was to transport prisoners to Australia and establish convict settlements. They were to use the prisoners as manual laborers to build the infrastructure, work as servants, cook, clean, and till the fields.
- Men and women convicts, as well as children, were taken to Australia. The journey took approximately 250-252 days, and the ships arrived in Botany Bay, Australia in January of 1788.
- They departed from Portsmouth, England on May 13th, 1787 for Australia.
- The First Fleet was comprised of 11 ships.
- The ships were carrying convict transports, officers, free people, and supplies for the future penal colony in Australia.
- There were about 1,000-1,500 convicts on board who had been accused of many different crimes.
- The First Fleet took approximately 250-252 days to get to Australia from start to finish, stopping in Rio De Janeiro and Cape Town.
- Most of the people on board were British, but some were also African, American, and French convicts as well.
- Of the 11 ships that set off, 2 were naval ships, 6 were carrying convicts, and 3 of the ships were store ships that carried the necessary food and supplies that would be required for establishing a lasting settlement in Australia.
- The First Fleet was commanded by Commodore Arthur Phillip.
- Sending the First Fleet to Australia cost the British approximately £84,000 (which would be more than US$100,000 at the time).
- The first part of the voyage was relatively calm and comfortable, with the convicts behaving and the weather cooperating for the ships.
- As a result of the American War of Independence, British convicts could no longer be transported to the Thirteen Colonies in America. So, the British needed to find somewhere else to transport their prisoners.
- December 6th, 1785 marked the date that the British were to establish a penal colony in New South Wales (land which had been claimed by James Cook in 1770).
- Before sending the ships off, supplies were needed to sustain the people on board until they could make use of supplies in Australia.
- Supplies such as food, equipment, medical supplies, and alcohol was rounded up and loaded on the ships.
- The ships set off on May 13th, 1787, stopping in Tenerife to pick up meat, vegetables, and water on June 3rd of the same year.
- The closer the ships got to the Equator, the hotter and more humid it got, which became an open invitation for rats, lice, fleas, and other parasites that made the trip excruciating.
- On August 5th, the fleet stopped in Rio de Janeiro and stayed there for about four weeks, during which time the ships were cleaned, restocked, and repaired if necessary.
- The fleet reached Table Bay in Southern Africa on October 13th, where livestock and other supplies were loaded onto the ships.
- After sailing through the rough seas below the 40th parallel (known as the “Roaring Forties,” the ship Friendship spotted Australia (then known as Van Diemen’s Land) on January 4th, 1788.
- The First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay between January 18th and 20th, 1788 before relocating to Port Jackson on January 26th when they realized that Botany Bay was not as marvelous as James Cook had provided (the soil was poor, and there wasn’t much water).
FIRST CONTACT AND ESTABLISHING A SETTLEMENT
- When the fleet first arrived in Botany Bay, they realized that the bay was too open and unprotected and lacked the required fresh water and proper soil with which to establish a lasting settlement.
- The first Indigenous people who made contact with the First Fleet were the Eora, who were curious but suspicious of the arrivals.
- The fleet sailed to Port Jackson, the more suitable site, on January 26th, 1788, which is the date celebrated as Australia Day and the date that marked the beginning of British settlement.
- Many first encounters with Aboriginal people were recorded in various journals kept by members of the First Fleet.
- Despite being cordial in the beginning days of occupation, tensions soon mounted and conflict with the Eora began.
- Once a settlement was established, many ships set off for different places around the world; some back to England, some to China, some back to the Cape of Good Hope for additional supplies, and some to the Dutch East Indies.
- The first settlement at Port Jackson later became the city of Sydney; Arthur Phillip noted that it was the “finest harbor in the world, in which a thousand sail of the line may ride in the most perfect security”.
First Fleet Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about First Fleet across 21 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use First Fleet worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the First Fleet, commanded by Sir Arthur Phillip, was the name given to the group of 11 ships that departed from England in 1787. The hope was to establish a penal colony in Australia (known at the time as Van Diemen’s Land).
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- See, Think, Wonder
- First Fleet by the Numbers
- Ship Sort
- First Fleet Wordsearch
- Mapping the Journey
- Effects of British Colonization
- Admiral & Captain Profiles
- A Letter from Sea
- Opinion Piece
- First Fleet Crossword
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Link will appear as First Fleet Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, August 9, 2019
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.