Talk:First Fleet

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How much of Australian social structure derives from ancestry in the First Fleet?—The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 19:45, 31 October 2002 (UTC+10 hours)

"ravage" of women before Lady Juliana[edit]

On the pbs show I just watched they said something about men "ravaging" women who came before the Lady Juliana and the head of the colony requested more women.—The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 09:23, 28 November 2005 (UTC+10 hours)

Please sign[edit]

If you are going to post, please sign! --Dumbo1 22:47, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

George Johnston link[edit]

The link to George Johnston is incorrect - it links to a Canadian who was born many years after the sailing of the first fleet.—The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 23:03, 21 February 2006 (UTC+10 hours)

Illegal imigrant[edit]

Would we class them as illegal imigrant? Enlil Ninlil 06:06, 12 July 2006 (UTC)

missing reference?[edit]

There are three references to "Gillen" (with page numbers) but the article lacks a reference section specifying Gillen's book. can someone provide pls? Coughinink 09:03, 20 September 2006 (UTC)

I agree; it would be much appreciated if someone could provide this Gillen's full name and which book of his/hers was referred to in this article. gives several possibilities if one searches for "gillen australia", but I have no idea which one it could be. Marialadouce 17:07, 23 October 2006 (UTC)
I'm guessing it would be, Mollie Gillen.

The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet (1989) This is the seminal work on the first fleet that led to her honourary doctorate and being awarded the Order of Australia. I will edit all references to this. Macr237 (talk) 13:41, 13 September 2008 (UTC)

MISSING REFERENCE - the same goes for Robert Hughes, mentioned in text but not in reference section: "The Fatal Shore", Robert Hughes (talk) 21:04, 1 February 2012 (UTC)

Done --Wikiain (talk) 23:20, 4 March 2012 (UTC)


I have noticed inappropriate uses of the word European to describe the colonists when in fact there were no less than 13 people of African descent. I think it would be better as 'colonists'. Can I go ahead and change it? If you need a source, Black Founders by Samantha Pybus —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:09, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

I can't see where that is really valid. How can you use it in context in the examples below:
(establish the first European colony in New South Wales); or
(The Dutch colony of Cape Town was the last outpost of European settlement)?
I can see the removal of the word European from:
(Unknown to the first European arrivals), but not the substitution of the word colonist. --Macr237 (talk) 09:00, 16 April 2008 (UTC)

I've been following this up. The book is: Cassandra Pybus, Black Founders: the unknown story of Australia's first black settlers (Sydney, University of New South Wales Press, 2006) ISBN 0-86840-849-2. Pybus details the stories of 12 men in the First Fleet who are known to have been of African descent. Some had been born in England, others in the American colonies. She cautions (pp 180-182) against importing 19th and 20th century notions of "race" back into the 18th or attributing such notions to Aboriginal cultures. These men were among the many people of African descent who were living in England at that time: Peter Fryer, Staying Power. I would therefore think that their presence on the First Fleet doesn't affect the character of the colonists as "European". --Wikiain (talk) 23:09, 13 February 2012 (UTC)

log of Supply[edit]

According to the log of the HMS Surply the first fleet arrived at Camp Cove in Port Jackson on the 23 January 1788. With the fear of turnable deep water a foot party was dispatched that arrived at the tank stream on the 26 January 1788 on that lite a signial fire. The fleet arrived in farm cove on the 27 Febuary and set up a settlement on the east side of the tank stream named Sydney Cove —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:00, 11 September 2008 (UTC)

And? What has that got to do with the word European? Macr237 (talk) 13:33, 13 September 2008 (UTC)
I have added sub-head - editor from IP address may not know how to start new sub-section --Matilda talk 20:06, 14 September 2008 (UTC)

Port Jackson[edit]

The article on Port Jackson states: "Eighteen years later, on 21 January 1788, after arriving at Botany Bay" whereas this articles states that: "They arrived at Botany Bay on 26 January 1788." —Preceding unsigned comment added by MrFredBloggs (talkcontribs) 06:06, 19 June 2009 (UTC)

Rio to Cape of Good Hope[edit]

There's been some recent good-faith reverting regarding the Fleet's path from Rio, and whether they entered the Pacific via the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn.

It was the Cape of Good Hope - from Rio in South America directly across the Atlantic to the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa and into the Pacific via the Indian Ocean.

This seems a little counter-intuitive when the shortest route would be to sail south from England down the African coastline, without crossing to South America. The reason, as outlined in Arthur Philip's journal of the voyage, was to avoid the calms that frequently delayed ships off the west African coast. Philip also knew he could replenish the ships stores in Rio, and was less assured of a safe harbour on the African coast before Cape Town.

When the Fleet finally arrived at the Cape of Good Hope they encountered an American ship that had taken longer to sail directly from the Canary islands than they had taken going all the way to Rio and back - proving Philip's argument about Africa's calm coastal winds correct.

I've added a reference for this to the article - hope that clears it up. Euryalus (talk) 11:16, 16 August 2009 (UTC)

First Fleet vs. first fleet[edit]

The problem I have is not with the article, but with the disambiguation statement above it.

A numbered fleet of whatever nation is a group of warships and auxiliaries permanently grouped together under one operational command, with continuity from one operation to the next.

I very much suspect that the "first fleet" in this case was simply an ad hoc group of ships sent on one voyage together and then sent individually on whatever other duties were most pressing.

In the military history that I have read, I have never seen a designation like "First Army" or "First Fleet" much prior to World War I.

The reference to the "British First Fleet" and the statement that for the American equivalent, one should see "US First Fleet" are misleading. The fleet that took these particular convicts to Australia was "first" chronologically, not "First" in any order of battle.

On further reflection, I think it was more the British custom to designate particular fleets by their area of operations rather than numbering--e.g., Home Fleet, Channel Fleet, Mediterranean Fleet, Pacific Fleet, etc.

Terry J. Carter (talk) 02:01, 27 January 2010 (UTC)

That's an intersting point you've raised Terry. I'm guessing you're not Australian. As a now quite mature Australian adult I can tell you that for most of my life the only first fleet I had ever heard of was the First Fleet that brought the first non-Aboriginal settlers to this country. If you Google "first fleet australia" you will get over a million hits, every one of which (that I've looked at so far) has both words capitalised, and refers to the one I've mentioned. But I can't dispute your perspective, apart, perhaps, for the second line. I can't tell you when our First Fleet was first given its name (maybe when the second one was assembled?), but it's been that way for a very, very long time. HiLo48 (talk) 03:03, 27 January 2010 (UTC)
I've just looked up First Fleet in my Macquarie Dictionary. That's the Australian equivalent of the USA's Websters or Funk & Wagnells. It tells me that First Fleet (with caps) means The ships which took the first convicts to Australia in 1788, the meaning that all Aussie kids learn at school. Unfortunately it doesn't give an etymology. I guess it's just a uniquely Australian usage of the term. HiLo48 (talk)
Yes. Compare these two sentences:
  • The First Lady is considered the first lady of the land.
  • The First Fleet was the first fleet to bring settlers to Australia. -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 12:08, 27 January 2010 (UTC)

the first fleet/song.[edit]

oh ya wanna know about the fist fleet its interesting that author Philip was the best hes the one who done the rest oh ya oh ya oh ya its the best to learn about him oh ya its the best to see him if u wanna know info, so wanna do Wat i told u i know u would love to. sorry i did not complete the song! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:45, 12 May 2010 (UTC)

Tidy the lead section?[edit]

The lead section now mixes discussion and statistics, and has the people stats repeated in different forms. Would somebody with direct access to the stats (for reliability) like to tidy this, probably moving all people stats out of the lead section? --Wikiain (talk) 01:50, 13 February 2012 (UTC)

Sounds like a good idea, but it is separate for a reason. The top half contains the official number of colonists excluding crew as reported by the government, while the bottom half contains 'calculated' statistics. Since there was no offical crew numbers reported, and the crews eventually left shorly after to continue with their jobs, any attempt will always be speculative, and as such should not be mixed with the official historical numbers. By showing both sets of numbers, the reader can come to their own conclusion as to how reliable the calculated statistics are. David.moreno72 (talk) 03:09, 13 February 2012 (UTC)

Thanks, David - I had you in mind, of course! What I was thinking of, was to move the first stats passage - from "consisting of ..." to the first footnote - down into a new section together with the other stats passages, and in that section explain (just as you now have) how the different sets of stats have been arrived at. --Wikiain (talk) 22:43, 13 February 2012 (UTC)

Sounds cool. I reckon that sounds like a good idea. David.moreno72 (talk) 03:30, 14 February 2012 (UTC)

Lots better now - I haven't tracked who did the work, but it looks good.--Wikiain (talk) 06:23, 29 April 2013 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: articles not moved (snow close). Armbrust, B.Ed. Let's talkabout my edits? 10:15, 4 March 2012 (UTC)

– I can't see any reason that the "Australian First Fleet" is any more a primary topic than the "United States First Fleet" or the Imperial Japanese First Fleet" which are also listed at the dab page. Green Giant (talk) 20:02, 28 February 2012 (UTC)

  • Oppose This article is about the founding of a nation, surely more important than the names of subsets of the navies of other nations. HiLo48 (talk) 00:22, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
    • The founding of a nation is important but is it any more or less important than what the 1st Japanese Fleet did in the Russo-Japanese War (a war which arguably established japan on the international stage) or the role the 1st Japanese Air Fleet played in the attack on Pearl Harbor, a pivotal point in WWII? Green Giant (talk) 01:53, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
      • Um, yes, otherwise I wouldn't have said what I said. HiLo48 (talk) 06:43, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose Australia has a national holiday to celebrate the day when the First Fleet arrived in Port Jackson. It is similar to the pilgram voyages for the foundation of America. The foundation story of any country is very important, and the Australian story is called the voyage of the First Fleet.David.moreno72 (talk) 02:25, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
    • I suspect we have a problem here that some non-Australian editors have never heard of the Australian First Fleet before, and when they do discover it here cannot conceive that it could be more important than those they have heard of. Maybe they just need to be educated a bit more. (Wikipedia is good for that.) Then think about it objectively for a while. HiLo48 (talk) 04:21, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Strong support the Roman first fleet and the IJN first fleet are highly likely for English-speaking regions that are not Australia. (talk) 05:28, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose Google search results give a strong indication that the "Australian" First Fleet is the primary topic. Here are the first 20 results with items relating to the Australian First Fleet ticked/checked:
FirstFleet, Inc. > Home (transport company)
checkYFirst Fleet Online
checkYAustralia's First Fleet
First Fleet Concerts (concert company)
checkYThe ships of the first fleet (thumbnails)
checkYFirst Fleet artwork collection
checkYFirst fleet
checkYFirst Fleet Arives 1788 - YouTube
checkYFIRST FLEET - YouTube
checkYpage 1 THE FIRST FLEET 1788
checkYFirst Fleet
Sydney Ferries - First Fleet Class (ferry company)
checkYArrival of the First Fleet & Colonisation
checkYFirst Fleet Fellowship
checkYFirst Fleet ship given National Heritage status - Australian Geographic
checkYThe First Fleet and Early Settlement Documents - SETIS - University ...
checkYFirst Fleet - Searching
checkYSouthern Cross watches over First Fleet's Sirius business
checkYConvicts of the First Fleet
Melburnian (talk) 07:34, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose Clear primary topic by any definition. Google search evidence per Melburnian, more articles in other language versions of wikipedia, incoming links (easy to check for yourself), more page views for First Fleet by a factor of 10 over United States First Fleet etc. etc. If this article doesn't meet the criteria for WP:PRIMARYTOPIC then WP:PRIMARYTOPIC may as well be thrown out. As HiLo48 suggests, there does not appear to have been a lot of research undertaken before the rename request was made. -- Mattinbgn (talk) 04:08, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose. The First Fleet delivered the founders of modern Australia to settle the nation. Other first fleets are naval administrative units. Clearly, a case of WP:PRIMARYTOPIC. WWGB (talk) 06:08, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose A very obvious primary topic. Completely concur with Mattinbgn above. Why do we need to dumb down the Wikipedia because some people don't know things? Surely the whole point here is to inform those people. - Nick Thorne talk 06:25, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose I see nothing on the dab page to render the article other than a primary topic Crusoe8181 (talk) 09:56, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose As per all the above. Russavia ლ(ಠ益ಠლ) 12:12, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose per Google Scholar]. In ictu oculi (talk) 16:08, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  • There is a problem here. "First Fleet" does certainly seem to refer to the Australian fleet primarily, but "1st Fleet" does not. Google results for "First Fleet" (135,000) and "1st Fleet" -Australia (201,000). But the terms are basically just spelling variations. Srnec (talk) 00:51, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose For reasons previously stated. -- Chuq (talk) 01:20, 2 March 2012 (UTC)

The Australian First Fleet is NOT an organizational unit. It therefor classifies as a primary topic.David.moreno72 (talk) 02:26, 2 March 2012 (UTC)

I was also wondering if America has a national holiday for when the American 1st Fleet first landed, or when the Japanese fleet first landed. This has been clearly a case by a non-Australian wanting to make changes to sacred Australian history.David.moreno72 (talk) 02:32, 2 March 2012 (UTC)

There is no such thing as sacred Australian history. Srnec (talk) 02:38, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
Australians also know that Americans don't understand irony. HiLo48 (talk) 03:18, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
If David.moreno72 was trying to be ironic, I confess to having missed it, and I'm not even American. Srnec (talk) 23:38, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose As others have stated, this is a clear WP:PRIMARYTOPIC. That determination is quite aside from the fact that there is only one "First Fleet" using that spelling and capitalisation which, on its own, suggests the article should be here avoiding any unnecessary disambiguation as per WP:PRECISION. The nomination is fundamentally flawed in suggesting that the article be moved to First Fleet (Australia). While the First Fleet is monumentally significant to Australia, as this recent edit to the article pointed out it was actually a British fleet; Australia didn't exist until many years later so placing the article at First Fleet (Australia) would be factually incorrect. However, placing it anywhere else would result in an ambiguously named article, which goes completely against Wikipedia:Disambiguation. Given the evidence presented above, First Fleet is the best and most appropriate place for this article. Arguing otherwise is as silly as arguing that Australia Day should be a redirect to January 26. --AussieLegend (talk) 07:00, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose. The current topic is the primary one. Nightw 07:57, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose for the reasons others have given. --Wikiain (talk) 18:37, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose per fellow Australian editors reasons given above - in particular AussieLegend SatuSuro 05:13, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.


this tag was placed because the article has grammatical errors and the lead section needs intense copyediting to render it adequate. FoCuSandLeArN (talk) 01:16, 1 October 2012 (UTC)

Kohi marine[edit]

What's a "kohi marine"? It is not explained herein neither elsewhere in Wikipedia. --Oop (talk) 21:40, 19 January 2013 (UTC)

Since nobody, including myself, seems to be able to identify "kohi", I've removed it - "a marine" seems enough anyway. --Wikiain (talk) 13:20, 15 June 2013 (UTC)


I am a regular user of wikipedia. I was very happy when I signed up because you can get more information which is very good for research. Hannahgunning1 (talk) 09:55, 20 March 2013 (UTC) Signed hannahgunning1

Mucking around[edit]

The last three revisions (all by Witeboyrapper) need to be undone. They are all Doctor Who references and really, need I say more?

I don't know if I have enough experience to roll back three changes. — Preceding unsigned comment added by KCastellino (talkcontribs) 10:32, 1 May 2013 (UTC)

Yep. I've fixed the problem. Thanks for letting us know. HiLo48 (talk) 10:49, 1 May 2013 (UTC)

Durations - Why the difference[edit]

The supply ships are being tabulated with durations of voyage several days longer than the other ships even though they are tabulated as arriving on the same day. Are these as recorded in a primary source? Or are they just wrong?

Dmoorenh (talk) 01:07, 20 September 2013 (UTC)

They were just wrong. have fixed them to match the actual dates sailed and arrived. Euryalus (talk) 05:54, 19 October 2013 (UTC)
There's been some weird vandalism on that part of the article from time to time. Thanks for fixing the numbers. HiLo48 (talk) 06:01, 19 October 2013 (UTC)
There's quite a lot of errors in this article. I've just fixed a few others, like the mysterious "prefab governor's house" and the idea the Fleet sailed bringing "pre-cut wood." The dates might have been an error in adding the six days sail from Botany Bay to port Jackson, or they could have been vandalism. Either way, more to be done here. :) Euryalus (talk) 06:10, 19 October 2013 (UTC)
Why don't you think they would have brought pre-cut wood? Of course they would have, they'd need pre-cut wood for refitting the ships. You'd be in big trouble back then if you didn't sail with any of it. Sir Langan (talk) 04:44, 6 November 2013 (UTC)
The context is the material brought to found the colony rather than shipboard supplies. These would also have included quantities of ammunition, sailcloth, pitch and a host of other items, but I suggest the quantities were trivial compared to the actual colonial stores and there would be little justification for including them in the list of equipment. Euryalus (talk) 07:25, 28 December 2013 (UTC)
Btw, being the first to admit I was wrong: I have found a reliable source for of the unreferenced and mysterious prefab governor's house, in a letter from one of Sirius' crew. Apparently a wooden frame was brought out from England, to serve as a frame for a temporary Government House while stone was prepared for a permanent one. I've put the mention back in with a reference to Southwell's letter home. I haven't restored the mention of the Fleet bringing out a supply of wood or bricks - Cook and Banks had made clear the area was forested and timber was one of the principal commercial motivations for the colony, along with flax, so I remain unconvinced they brought vast stores of timber with them for colonial use. The absence of a supply of bricks is also well documented, mostly in the context of none of the convicts being expert in making them and that this inability condemned almost everyone to thatched huts or tents for the first couple of years. But on the prefab govt house, mea culpa and I've restored the mention. :) Euryalus (talk) 04:07, 29 December 2013 (UTC)


Some good references for improving this article:

The First Fleet journals held in the State Library of New South Wales are listed in Tales from the First Fleet.

smallpox aspects[edit]

First Fleet smallpox
Recent scholars, Christopher Warren (2007),[1] Craig Mear (2008),[2] and Michael Bennett (2009)[3] have argued that the First Fleet probably introduced live smallpox virus into Australian aboriginal tribes. Earlier writers were divided over 1) whether the First Fleet introduced smallpox and 2) whether this was deliberate. Mear's paper argues that the First Fleet was the origin of the disease but says there is no proof that smallpox was deliberately released [see Mear (2008) pg 17]. Bennett suggests that brutalised veterans from the American War of Independence could have used smallpox, but Bennett notes that convicts were more likely to release smallpox as an act of revenge after Australian natives killed and attacked unarmed convicts.
Historian Judy Campbell previously argued that it was highly improbable that the First Fleet was the source of the epidemic as "smallpox had not occurred in any members of the First Fleet" and as the only possible source of infection from the Fleet was the variolous matter imported for inoculation against smallpox. Campbell argues that the variolous matter was probably inactivated by heat and humidity and that there is no evidence that Aboriginal people were exposed to the material. She points to regular contact between Macassans from the Indonesia archipelago, where smallpox was episodic (excluding Macassar), and Aboriginal people in Australia's North as a possible source for the introduction of smallpox.[4] There remains some disputation in avowedly conservative media such as Quadrant particularly as it now appears there was no recorded outbreak of smallpox at Macassar prior to the Sydney outbreak.[5]

I have removed this because it places a very heavy emphasis on just one of the results, or possible results of European settlement, and gives it undue weight, in an article that is about the First Fleet, rather than the Early Settlement of Sydney. It is almost certain that no Aboriginal person contracted Smallpox while a passenger on the First Fleet.

Moreover, knowing that Smallpox and other European epidemics had decimated the Aboriginal population, historians, some twenty years ago, hit on the tubes of smallpox scabs that were issued to the First Fleet as the answer. In a kind of hysteria, it was very easy to interpret that they were carried to infect the local indigenous population. In fact, nothing could have been further from the truth. The tubes of scabs were used specifically to vaccinate people against Smallpox. When vaccination first came into use, Smallpox scabs were used, causing a (usually) mild case of smallpox. It was then discovered that coxpox could be used just as effectively.

While the medical impact of European settlement on Aboriginal people has a place on Wikipedia, it isn't in this article. Not unless you are setting out to tell the whole story of European impact.

Amandajm (talk) 08:13, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

I agree with Amandajm. There are clearly various theories for the smallpox outbreak and it's an interesting topic. But this is an article on the First Fleet, not on the early settlement of Sydney. The smallpox outbreak occurred after the First Fleet, not during it. It had no impact on the decision to send the Fleet or the Fleet's voyage. It is more appropriately located in an article on Sydney, Indigenous Australians or the impact of early settlement.
Other views welcome. Euryalus (talk) 02:17, 9 November 2013 (UTC)
Sounds sensible to me. HiLo48 (talk) 02:29, 9 November 2013 (UTC)

That is not agreed. The First Fleet was entirely involved with the arrival of smallpox. Of course any details of the outbreak itself would be best placed elsewhere, but the simple fact that the First Fleet carried the virus that led ti important impacts is relevant. You would not delete themes of artillery from articles covering Napoleonic battles on the basis that they would be better off in articles on the history of France, or articles on the technology of war. An accurate understanding of the First Fleet includes everything it carried, possessed, and ensuing ramifications - anything about early preparations, and even the subsequent fate of the different ships and of various identities - even it would seem - commemoration gardens and fictional works.

However the first large paragraph, introducing aspects concerning Macassans, does seem extraneous, and is damaging the focus.

It is necessary to have some reference to the fact that this area is contentious and some reference for interested viewers to follow-up.

There is no reference in any refereed source that the issue of the First Fleet carrying and introducing smallpox is a so-called "red herring". This is not how First Fleet scholars present the issues. Such tagging represents a private unsubstantiated view.

No academic source says it is 'hysteria'. It would be remiss not to mention probably one of the most significant fact from the First Fleet that differentiates it from similar colonial projects.

Wilcannia (talk) 02:43, 9 November 2013 (UTC)

Slightly off-topic, but the spread of disease as a result of colonization is so common as to be a standard event. It cannot be described as something that differentiates the First Fleet from similar colonial projects. More on-topic - you wouldn't remove references to artillery from an article on Napoleonic wars because artillery were an instrumental part of the Napoleonic Wars, affecting how they were planned, how they were fought and who won. Whereas smallpox had no impact on the conception or execution of the voyage of the Fleet, had no or negligible impact on the actual members of the Fleet and spread (or was spread) to the indigenous population after the Fleet had disbanded and most of its vessels sailed away. Smallpox is relevant to the early history of Sydney and deserves significant coverage there. Happy to agree it may be relevant that it was carried aboard the Fleet - but surely only in brief, not in several substantial paragraphs. Euryalus (talk) 02:53, 9 November 2013 (UTC)

That is beside the point. Information on the First Fleet is not confined to "on the conception or execution of the voyage of the Fleet". The first paragraph could go.

In general British colonisation did not spread smallpox. Mixing the issue with other disease spread is not appropriate as this would require extension of the subject to include dysentry, tuberculosis, fevers and venereal diseases. This would need a better informed contributor.

The recent carriage of the issue by Journal Of Royal Historical Society, Bulletin of the Histroy of Medicine, Journal of Australian Studies, and Quadrant is, sourced, appropriate and balanced.

Wilcannia (talk) 03:04, 9 November 2013 (UTC)

If there is to be mention of “First Fleet Smallpox” in this article, I cannot see how it can be done responsibly without including information based on Judy Campbell’s book which is a significant source regarding this issue.
There is a recent misconception (see Warren) that because there was no outbreak of smallpox in Macassar in 1789, this means that the ‘Macassans’ could not have brought smallpox to northern Australia.
Campbell, however, makes it clear that the ‘Macassans’ included fisherman and boats from a number of islands in the Indonesian archipelago as well as from areas of Sulawesi other that Macassar (and that the fishing fleets stopped off, on the way to the Australian coast, at other islands such as Timor to pick up fresh water, supplies and additional crewmen) and it certainly hasn’t been determined that there were no outbreaks of smallpox on any of the islands at the 'right' time.
There is also the problem that a ‘Macassan’ carrier of the virus may have arrived on Australia’s north coast not in 1789 or 1788 but several years before that. The smallpox virus can take years to cross a continent but the studies of smallpox in tribal groups in North Africa including Sudan and Ethiopia show that it can cover considerable distances over a period of years.
This argument about smallpox outbreaks, however, is based on a fundamental misconception about how smallpox spreads. Just because there may have been no recorded outbreak in a particular area does not mean that there were no persons infected with smallpox in that area. Smallpox can be passed from person to person with very small numbers being infected at one time (the numbers remaining very low as a result of quarantine/isolation either intentional or inadvertent - such as the infected person being in an area with a low population density). An ‘outbreak’ occurs when a relatively large number of people contract the virus at about the same. This is a chance occurrence often related to population density, such as when an infectious person travels to a more densely populated region with a corresponding increase in potential contacts.
Nor was the virus spread exclusively through trading relationships. Since Aboriginal beliefs of the time ascribed deaths from disease to sorcery or evil spirits (or a combination of both), the typical response to an epidemic was to flee the area, and since some of those that fled would already have been infected they would be taking the virus with them to infect anyone they encountered. (talk) 08:52, 9 November 2013 (UTC)

cambells approach was entirely based on the core principle that smallpox had NOTHING to do with the First Fleet.

Anyone who knows anything about this will know that Cambell is precisely the one author that has no relecvance to the First Fleet. Zero. That was her entire point.

QED. (talk) 12:04, 9 November 2013 (UTC)

So what do you propose? Do we include only the sources who speculate that the smallpox came from the First Fleet and leave out the source who is the top Australian expert on the smallpox epidemics, who has spent decades studying this very issue, because she says that it did not come from the FF? BTW she is not the only person who has examined this issue and come to the conclusion that there was a northern origin. That would mean leaving all readers of this article with the false impression that there is no doubt that the FF spread smallpox and that it is only a question of whether it was deliberate or accidental. If there is controversy over an issue or multiple theories, then they must all be canvassed, at least briefly. The fact that Campbell says the FF did not spread smallpox IS her relevance to this topic. (talk) 00:11, 10 November 2013 (UTC)

Have trimmed the first para a little, removing information regarding the origins of those referred to as Macassans. Seemed unnecessary for the purposes of this article although perhaps more relevant to other articles where this controversy is discussed more extensively. (talk) 05:02, 11 November 2013 (UTC)

Whatever is done about location (proposed in next section), the discussion of smallpox could now include Boyd H. Hunter and John Carmody, "Estimating the Aboriginal Population in Early Colonial Australia: The Role of Chickenpox Reconsidered" (2015) 55(2) Australian Economic History Review 112-138. According to one summary, the article argues that chickenpox, which is more infectious than smallpox and can be fatal in adults, was often mistaken for smallpox. Wikiain (talk) 22:45, 26 December 2015 (UTC)

Unless there is evidence presented of a deliberate conspiracy to introduce smallpox to the aboriginals in the district via the First Fleet or in its orders, this aspect is completely irrelevant to the article. I have deleted the entire content related to smallpox. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Outback1964 (talkcontribs) 11:17, 28 January 2016 (UTC)

Not sure the entire thing should be deleted, but it's certainly vastly out of proportion to include such a quantity of text describing what is a minority academic opinion on the origins of smallpox. It's also entirely irrelevant to the First Fleet - if we are going to include this material anywhere it should be on an article on the colonial settlement, not the voyage that brought the colonists to Australia. -- Euryalus (talk) 12:39, 28 January 2016 (UTC)
Without taking a position in the consensus debate, Outback1964, you need to desist from removing the material from the article until a consensus is reached. You're already in violation of WP:3RR, having reverted 6 times. Onel5969 TT me 13:00, 28 January 2016 (UTC)
If you read the above posts over the last 3 years you'll see there is consensus that the smallpox issue is not relevant to the page about the voyage of a fleet of ships. If it's consensus you want, how about the millions of Australian citizens who never read Wikipedia providing their consensus? The entire section goes ... gag me if you must.Outback1964 (talk) 21:29, 28 January 2016 (UTC)

Arbitrary break[edit]

The smallpox theories and counter-theories have now expanded into a section nearly as long as the content on the entire voyage. This gives it undue weight. The article is about the First Fleet, and should principally cover the ships, the voyage and the people on board. It is not an article on early Australian settlement, or on colonial disease management, or on relations with indigenous Australians. I note also that the smallpox epidemic occurred after the First Fleet had disbanded and sailed away.

Surely at least some of this very extended smallpox content could be moved to other articles which more directly relate to either early Australian settlement or colonial impacts on indigenous Australians. -- Euryalus (talk) 05:03, 3 January 2015 (UTC)

I fully agree. Wassermaus (talk) 14:44, 2 April 2015 (UTC)
Smallpox, about which almost nothing was known medically, was greatly feared, and no sane ship's Master would have knowingly carried on board persons infected with smallpox, as he would be risking not only his whole crew, but also himself. Edward Jenner did not invent vaccination until after the Fleet had arrived in Australia.


  1. ^ Warren C., "Could First Fleet smallpox infect Aborigines? – A note", Aboriginal History 31, pp 152–164. Online:
  2. ^ Mear C. "The origin of the smallpox in Sydney in 1789". Journal of Royal Australian Historical Society. 94 (1): 1–22.
  3. ^ Bennett, MJ, "Smallpox and Cowpox under the Southern Cross: The Smallpox Epidemic of 1789 ...", Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 83(1), Spring 2009, pg 48.
  4. ^ Invisible Invaders: Smallpox and Other Diseases in Aboriginal Australia 1780 – 1880, by Judy Campbell, Melbourne University Press, 2002, pp 55, 61, 73–74, 181
  5. ^ Willis, HA, "Poxy History" Quadrant, September 2010 and Letters to Editor, April 2011

Re-enactment voyage[edit]

I've just created an article for the First Fleet Re-enactment Voyage which occurred for the Australian Bicentenary. It probably rates a mention in this article (maybe in the "Legacy" section), but I will leave it up to more involved editors as to what and how much is added. -- saberwyn 04:57, 1 April 2015 (UTC)


The tables listing the vessels all have a column giving the date of departure from Portsmouth. As the date is the same for all, there is no reason devote a column in each of two tables to this info. I would remove the column myself if I knew more about the formatting of tables, but I don't. Also, there is a long quotation that names the vessels, their tons burthen, the number of convicts, crew, marines, etc. Can't we just incorporate any material that isn't already in the article somewhere else into a table and be done with it? Regards, Acad Ronin (talk) 22:45, 28 July 2015 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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Semi-protected edit request on 20 February 2017[edit]

Location of the First Fleet Bicentential Monument is Brighton-Le-Sands,NSW not Sans Souci. see Ausg123 (talk) 08:02, 20 February 2017 (UTC)

Done — Train2104 (t • c) 15:18, 20 February 2017 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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Date of departure reference?[edit]

I'm sure the date is correct but where did the date come from? Needs a reference. jayoval (talk) 05:09, 12 January 2019 (UTC)