Friday, 6 April 2012

Lady Penrhyn, 1789

The interlinking of people and places around the British Empire in the late eighteenth century is perfectly illustrated by the First Fleet transport Lady Penrhyn.
On his first voyage from July 1768 to July 1771 Captain Cook on HMS Endeavour was charged by the Royal Society and the British Admiralty to view the transit of Venus from Tahiti and then to look for the Southern Continent.  On board was Joseph Banks, then aged 25, who supplied an estimated £10,000 of his own money to equip the expedition.  Employed by Banks were the Swedish Naturalist Daniel Solander and his fellow scientist, the Finn, Dr. Herman Spöring.  Following the observation of the Transit in June 1769 the voyage then progressed to New Zealand and then became the first European expedition to reach and chart the eastern shores of Australia where, on 29 April 1770, Cook made his first landing.
Initially the name Stingrays Harbour was used by Cook and other journal keepers on his expedition, for the stingrays they caught there.  Cook's log for 6 May 1770 records "The great quantity of these sort of fish found in this place occasioned my giving it the name of Stingrays Harbour".  However, in his journal prepared later from his log, he changed to "The great quantity of plants Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander found in this place occasioned my giving it the name of Botany Bay".  The name Botanist Bay was also sometimes used.
It was Banks’ time in Australia that led to his interest in the British colonisation of that continent and he was to be the greatest proponent of settlement in New South Wales.  In 1779 Banks, by now President of The Royal Society, giving evidence before a committee of the House of Commons had stated that in his opinion the place most eligible for the establishment of a penal colony "was Botany Bay, on the coast of New Holland"
Lady Penrhyn

In 1786 Lady Penrhyn was chartered by the Navy Board as a First Fleet vessel and became one of the eleven ships which left England in 1787 carrying a total of 1,420 people including 775 convicts, sent to establish the first European Colony in Australia in the region which Cook had named New South Wales.
The 333 ton Thames-built transport left Portsmouth on 13 May with 101 female convicts, and arrived at Port Jackson, on 26 January 1788.  She also carried the first horses sent to Australia, which it is thought to have consisted of one stallion, one colt, three mares and two fillies from Cape Town.  As Surgeon responsible for the convicts on board was Arthur Bowes Smythe.  In addition to his official duties he also took a great interest in natural history, collecting specimens and making drawings including the earliest extant illustration by a European of the emu. 
Leaving Port Jackson under Captain Sever, on 5 May 1788 Lady Penrhyn sailed north into the South Pacific.  On board, en route to China, was Lieutenant John Watts who had sailed on Resolution with Cook.  The poor condition of the ship and sickness among her crew compelled her to turn back from the intended voyage to the North West coast of America when she had gone only as far as Tahiti, where the crew recovered and the ship was repaired. When Lady Penrhyn anchored in Matavai Bay in July 1788 they had only three men in one watch, and two in the other besides the mates, and two of these ailing; the rest of the crew were in a truly deplorable state.  The Lady Penrhyn also became the first British ship to visit Tahiti since Cook in August 1777, shortly before Bligh’s arrival in search of breadfruit in October of that year.
6 June 1788-10 July 1788
“The scurvy now began to spread very fast among the crew, and by the 6th, they had nine men unable to get out of their hammocks, and many others complained very much: swelled gums, the flesh exceeding black and hard, a contraction of the sinews, with a total debility; were the general appearances. Wine was daily served out to them, and there was sour-krout on board, but the people refused to eat it. From this to the 17th they had little variety; by that time the people were in a deplorable state, for with every person on board, the Captain included, they could only muster ten men able to do duty, and some of them were in a very weakly state: sour-krout, which before had been refused, now began to be sought after, and they had all the Captain's fresh stock, himself and officers living solely on salt provisions; and to add to their melancholy situation the wind hung almost constantly in the eastern board, so that they could scarcely make any progress. In the evening, the Chief of Matavai came on board, and in him Lieutenant Watts recollected an old friend: the Chief was greatly pleased to see Mr. Watts, as he was the only person in the ship who had been here before, except the steward, who had been before the mast in the Resolution; He informed them that no ship had been at the islands since Capt. Cook: therefore, they concealed his death, and Capt. Sever made Oediddee a present, as coming from Capt. Cook.”
Leaving Tahiti Lady Penrhyn arrived at Macao on October 19th 1788 then, proceeding upriver to Canton to take on a cargo of tea, returned to England via The Cape and St. Helena mid-August 1789. Smythe’s journal of the voyage can be read here:

At daybreak on 18th May 1789 Smythe writes in his Logbook: “Saw St Helena- the Captain was the first who discover’d land”. 

At Jamestown he made the drawing below.
View of the Island of St. Helena
In his log he describes the following incident:
One day as I was walking in company with some Gentlemen up the Ladder Hill, just before we had reached the summit to guns were fired to answer the Salute of a Danish Indiaman and one of the artillery men had one of his hands blown off.  2 fingers of the other hand and the bones of the elbow very much shattered, we met him in the road leading down to the hospital by 3 or 4 of his Companions.
Also returning to England, Scarborough, another First Fleet ship had sailed from St. Helena on March 24th 1789.
Banks, knighted in 1781, had a continuing interest in Australia, for when the settlement started, and for 20 years afterwards, he was the general adviser to the British Government on all Australian matters.  He arranged that a large number of useful trees and plants should be sent out in the Second Fleet supply ship HMS Guardian which, however, was wrecked in 1790 off the Cape of Good Hope and every vessel that came from New South Wales brought plants or animals or geological and other specimens to Banks.  The three earliest governors of the colony, Arthur Phillip, John Hunter and Philip Gidley King, were continually in correspondence with him.  Bligh was also appointed Governor of New South Wales on Banks’ recommendation.

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