The Founding of Sydney

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The Founding of Sydney

The Founding of Sydney
On May 13, 1787, Captain Arthur Phillip of the Royal Navy set sail from Portsmouth with the First Fleet. In addition to their crews numbering over 400 seamen, the 11 ships carried about 780 convicts. Phillip arrived at Botany Bay on January 18, 1788. Finding the bay a poor choice, he moved north to Port Jackson, which he discovered to be one of the world's best natural harbors. Here he began the first permanent settlement on January 26, now known as Australia Day. The settlement was named Sydney for Britain's home secretary, Lord Sydney, who was responsible for the colony. Phillip's domain covered half of Australia (from the eastern oceanic waters to as far west as the 135th meridian), but his human resources were limited. In particular, he lacked the horticulturalists, skilled carpenters, and engineers needed to develop a self-supporting colony. His major concern, until his departure in 1792, was ruling virtually single-handedly over the small penal settlement.

Three major problems confronted the early governors: providing a sufficient supply of foodstuffs; developing an internal economic system; and producing exports to pay for the colony's imports from Britain. Land around Sydney was too sandy for suitable farming, and the colony faced perpetual food shortages through the 1790s. Natural food sources were largely limited to fish and kangaroo. Phillip established farms on the more fertile banks of the Hawkesbury River, a few miles northwest of Sydney, but this land was often flooded or still used by the Aborigines. Needed food supplies came mainly from Norfolk Island, nearly 1,600 km (about 1,000 mi) away, which Phillip had occupied in February 1788. The island later served as a jail for the more hardened criminals.

   

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