Early Sufferings of the Colony

(previous ... Settlement of Sydney)

What! No Farmers

More than a third of the colony were ill with scurvy and other diseases. Sixty six of them lay in a little hospital which had been set up of whom many did not recover. Those who were well enough to work began to clear the land for cultivation but as soon as everything was ready for ploughing to begin it was discovered that nobody new how to farm. If it had not been for Governor Phillip's servant who had once learnt a little bit of agriculture, their efforts would have been of little avail. As it was the farming was of crudest kind. Even if they had one man was highly experienced in agriculture, he could have done very little to instruct so many. The officers and soldiers were smart enough on parade but they were useless on a farm.

Convicts Behaving Badly

The convicts, instead of trying to learn, used all their ingenuity in picking each others pockets or in robbing the stores. They would do no work unless an armed soldier was standing behind them, and if he dared turn a way for a moment, they would deliberately destroy the farm implements in their charge or do whatever damage the most stupid and purposeless malice could suggest.

No Food!

Thus, only a trifling amount of food was obtained from the soil, the provisions they had brought with them were nearly finished and when news came came that the Guardian transport, of which there was a large supply of fresh provisions, had struck an iceberg and had been lost, the little community was filled with the deepest dismay. Soon after, a ship arrived with a number of fresh convicts but had no provisions (nice one!). In great haste the Sirius was sent to the Cape of Good Hope and the Supply to Batavia (Indonesia). The two vessels brought back as much as they could manage but it was all used in a month or two. Starvation was now a reality to the new settlement, everyone, including the officers and the Governor himself, were put on the smallest of rations, just enough to keep the body going. Despite this there was not enough food to last any length of time. Numbers died of starvation forcing the Governor to halt all works, as the men were too weak to continue. The cattle and sheep which had been brought with so much trouble were killed for food, with the exception of two or three which had escaped into the woods and were never seen of again.

Norfolk Island

Under these desperate circumstances , Governor Phillip sent 200 convicts , with 70 soldiers, to Norfolk Island, where there was moderate chance of being able to support themselves. Lieutenant King had immediately taken possession of the island, following the arrival in New South Wales, as Captain Cook had spoken so highly of its beauty and fertility. Initially 27 convicts and soldiers had gone along with King and had cleared away the timber from the rich brown soil. They had little trouble in raising ample crops and soon had plenty of fresh food which their less fortunate companions came to share. But the Sirius , in which they had been carried over, was wrecked on a coral reef near the island before she could return with a considerable quantity of provisions.

 (continues ... Arrival of the Second Fleet)


History of Australia