The 350-ton barque Prince of Wales was the last ship to join the First Fleet on its epic voyage to Botany Bay in 1787–88.1Jonathan King, The First Fleet: The Convict Voyage that Founded Australia 1787–88 (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1982), 18 Like Lady Penrhyn, it was built in 1786 and carried mostly female convicts, a total of 49, along with one male convict, two lieutenants, three sergeants, two corporals, one drummer and 24 privates, under master John Mason.2Jonathan King, The First Fleet: The Convict Voyage that Founded Australia 1787–88 (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1982), 18. The actual number of crew varies from account to account, the numbers here were provided in David Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales; With Remarks on the Dispositions, Customs, Manners &c. of the Native Inhabitants of that Country, vol 1, 1798, ed H Fletcher (Sydney: AH & AW Reed in association with the Royal Australian Historical Society, 1975), viewed 10 January 2015

The last ship

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz on the SE side of Teneriffe; Sirius & Convoy in the Roads, June 1787 in William Bradley’s journal, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW

According to Judge Advocate David Collins, Prince of Wales was contracted in January 1787 ‘on a representation being made to the Treasury Board that such an addition was necessary’.3David Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales; With Remarks on the Dispositions, Customs, Manners &c. of the Native Inhabitants of that Country, vol 1, 1798, ed H Fletcher (Sydney: AH & AW Reed in association with the Royal Australian Historical Society, 1975), viewed 10 January 2015. See also Letter from Arthur Phillip to Under Secretary Evan Nepean, 12 December 1786, UK National Archives, T1/639, No 2898a The ship joined the rest of the fleet at the Motherbank on 23 February and loaded its first two convicts from Chester Gaol on 14 March. Over the next two months the ship loaded more female convicts from Lincoln, Flint, Lancaster and other prisons until the last major group from Newgate Gaol embarked on 3 May. Of that group, Surgeon Arthur Bowes Smyth aboard Lady Penrhyn remarked, ‘We had the good fortune to receive none of them’.4Arthur Bowes Smyth, A Journal of a Voyage from Portsmouth to New South Wales and China in the Lady Penrhyn, 22 March 1787 to 8 August 1789 (Sydney: Public Library of New South Wales, 1787–1789), transcript, viewed 10 January 2015 By the time the convoy departed on 13 May, Prince of Wales had only just finished loading the vital bread and water supplies it needed for the voyage ahead.5Jonathan King, The First Fleet: The Convict Voyage that Founded Australia 1787–88 (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1982), 41. Also in Arthur Bowes Smyth, Arthur Bowes Smyth, A Journal of a Voyage from Portsmouth to New South Wales and China in the Lady Penrhyn, 22 March 1787 to 8 August 1789 (Sydney: Public Library of New South Wales, 1787–1789), transcript, viewed 10 January 2015

The voyage

During the first days of the voyage Sergeant James Scott reported ‘a great number of the women’ were seasick aboard Prince of Wales.6James Scott, Remarks on a Passage to Botany Bay, 1787–1792: A First Fleet Journal, (Sydney: Trustees of the Public Library of New South Wales in association with Angus and Robertson, 1963, transcript, viewed 10 January 2015. Jonathan King, The First Fleet: The Convict Voyage that Founded Australia 1787–88 (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1982), 44 Private Easty from Scarborough escorted two prisoners suspected of mutiny to Prince of Wales as their punishment on HMS Sirius was complete.7David Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales; With Remarks on the Dispositions, Customs, Manners &c. of the Native Inhabitants of that Country, vol 1, 1798, ed H Fletcher (Sydney: AH & AW Reed in association with the Royal Australian Historical Society, 1975), viewed 10 January 2015; Jonathan King, The First Fleet: The Convict Voyage that Founded Australia 1787–88 (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1982), 47 As the fleet sighted Tenerife on 1 June, below decks on Prince of Wales the wife of the drummer gave birth to a baby boy.8James Scott, Remarks on a Passage to Botany Bay, 1787–1792: A First Fleet Journal, (Sydney: Trustees of the Public Library of New South Wales in association with Angus and Robertson, 1963, transcript, viewed 10 January 2015

Page from James Scott's journal

Page from James Scott’s journal, Prince of Wales at Sea, 1-9 June 1787, Dixson Library, State Library of NSW

After restocking supplies at Santa Cruz, Prince of Wales embarked on the second leg of the journey. On 24 June, Scott reported marines Robert Ryan and Arthur Dougherty were convicted of insolence and disobeying orders on HMS Sirius. The following day they were sent aboard Prince of Wales; Dougherty was acquitted, but Ryan was sentenced to 300 lashes though he collapsed after 175.9James Scott, Remarks on a Passage to Botany Bay, 1787–1792: A First Fleet Journal, (Sydney: Trustees of the Public Library of New South Wales in association with Angus and Robertson, 1963, transcript, viewed 10 January 2015; Jonathan King, The First Fleet: The Convict Voyage that Founded Australia 1787–88 (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1982), 62

As the ship sailed through Portuguese waters, Scott and his wife Jane began a quarrel with messmates Sergeant Hume and his wife Sarah.10James Scott, Remarks on a Passage to Botany Bay, 1787–1792: A First Fleet Journal, (Sydney: Trustees of the Public Library of New South Wales in association with Angus and Robertson, 1963, transcript, viewed 10 January 2015 When they crossed the equator on 14 July, according to Scott, a drunk Sergeant Kennedy abused several people before he:

Jumped Down the Main Hach Way Upon My Wife Which As She Sat at Work Just By the Lader Which Caused a Great Fright. And Like Wise Hurted her Greatley.11James Scott, Remarks on a Passage to Botany Bay, 1787–1792: A First Fleet Journal, (Sydney: Trustees of the Public Library of New South Wales in association with Angus and Robertson, 1963, transcript, viewed 10 January 2015

On 24 July, convict Jane Bonner was struck violently in the head when a jolly boat broke loose. She died six days later and was buried at sea.

The fleet stayed in the port of Rio de Janeiro for a month before sailing for Cape Town. On the third leg, Scott recorded one of the female convicts received six lashes for theft, the first to receive such punishment on Prince of Wales.12James Scott, Remarks on a Passage to Botany Bay, 1787–1792: A First Fleet Journal, (Sydney: Trustees of the Public Library of New South Wales in association with Angus and Robertson, 1963, transcript, viewed 10 January 2015 Before anchoring at Cape Town on 13 October, two of the women aboard gave birth – convict Cathrin Hart and a marine’s wife.13Jonathan King, The First Fleet: The Convict Voyage that Founded Australia 1787–88 (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1982), 98–99

Over the final 68-day leg of the voyage, Scott recorded a few events of note. On 23 November:

Yorgan Yorganness a Seaman fell Over Board, he fell, from the Main Topsail Yard, it being Dark & Blowing fresh Wee had No Hopes of Saving, him14James Scott, Remarks on a Passage to Botany Bay, 1787–1792: A First Fleet Journal, (Sydney: Trustees of the Public Library of New South Wales in association with Angus and Robertson, 1963, transcript, viewed 10 January 2015

The following day another tragedy struck when convict Eleanor McCave delivered a stillborn child.15James Scott, Remarks on a Passage to Botany Bay, 1787–1792: A First Fleet Journal, (Sydney: Trustees of the Public Library of New South Wales in association with Angus and Robertson, 1963, transcript, viewed 10 January 2015

The arrival

At 2 pm on 7 January 1788, Prince of Wales had finally reached Van Diemen’s Land.16James Scott, Remarks on a Passage to Botany Bay, 1787–1792: A First Fleet Journal, (Sydney: Trustees of the Public Library of New South Wales in association with Angus and Robertson, 1963, transcript, viewed 10 January 2015 After a trying voyage around the southernmost part of Australia, Prince of Wales entered Botany Bay at 8 am on 20 January. Phillip decided Botany Bay was unsuitable for settlement, so the fleet set sail again, this time for Port Jackson. Strong winds forced the transport ships to try three times before they could clear the Bay. As Prince of Wales struggled in the conditions, its new mainsail and main topmast were torn to pieces when it ran foul with Friendship.17Jonathan King, The First Fleet: The Convict Voyage that Founded Australia 1787–88 (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1982), 168

The Prince of Wales arrived at Sydney Cove on 26 January and remained there for five months while its stores were unloaded. On its return voyage, the crew was struck with scurvy, which claimed the lives of two of its company including its master, Mason. By the time the ship reached the port of Rio on 13 October, 14 crew members were reportedly incapacitated by scurvy. The ship reached Falmouth, England on 25 March 1789 and from 1797 was used in the West India trade before it disappeared from historical records.


This article was originally published at the Dictionary of Sydney as part of their First Fleet series, supported by the Maritime Museums of Australia Project Support Scheme.

References   [ + ]

1. Jonathan King, The First Fleet: The Convict Voyage that Founded Australia 1787–88 (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1982), 18
2. Jonathan King, The First Fleet: The Convict Voyage that Founded Australia 1787–88 (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1982), 18. The actual number of crew varies from account to account, the numbers here were provided in David Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales; With Remarks on the Dispositions, Customs, Manners &c. of the Native Inhabitants of that Country, vol 1, 1798, ed H Fletcher (Sydney: AH & AW Reed in association with the Royal Australian Historical Society, 1975), viewed 10 January 2015
3. David Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales; With Remarks on the Dispositions, Customs, Manners &c. of the Native Inhabitants of that Country, vol 1, 1798, ed H Fletcher (Sydney: AH & AW Reed in association with the Royal Australian Historical Society, 1975), viewed 10 January 2015. See also Letter from Arthur Phillip to Under Secretary Evan Nepean, 12 December 1786, UK National Archives, T1/639, No 2898a
4. Arthur Bowes Smyth, A Journal of a Voyage from Portsmouth to New South Wales and China in the Lady Penrhyn, 22 March 1787 to 8 August 1789 (Sydney: Public Library of New South Wales, 1787–1789), transcript, viewed 10 January 2015
5. Jonathan King, The First Fleet: The Convict Voyage that Founded Australia 1787–88 (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1982), 41. Also in Arthur Bowes Smyth, Arthur Bowes Smyth, A Journal of a Voyage from Portsmouth to New South Wales and China in the Lady Penrhyn, 22 March 1787 to 8 August 1789 (Sydney: Public Library of New South Wales, 1787–1789), transcript, viewed 10 January 2015
6. James Scott, Remarks on a Passage to Botany Bay, 1787–1792: A First Fleet Journal, (Sydney: Trustees of the Public Library of New South Wales in association with Angus and Robertson, 1963, transcript, viewed 10 January 2015. Jonathan King, The First Fleet: The Convict Voyage that Founded Australia 1787–88 (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1982), 44
7. David Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales; With Remarks on the Dispositions, Customs, Manners &c. of the Native Inhabitants of that Country, vol 1, 1798, ed H Fletcher (Sydney: AH & AW Reed in association with the Royal Australian Historical Society, 1975), viewed 10 January 2015; Jonathan King, The First Fleet: The Convict Voyage that Founded Australia 1787–88 (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1982), 47
8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16. James Scott, Remarks on a Passage to Botany Bay, 1787–1792: A First Fleet Journal, (Sydney: Trustees of the Public Library of New South Wales in association with Angus and Robertson, 1963, transcript, viewed 10 January 2015
9. James Scott, Remarks on a Passage to Botany Bay, 1787–1792: A First Fleet Journal, (Sydney: Trustees of the Public Library of New South Wales in association with Angus and Robertson, 1963, transcript, viewed 10 January 2015; Jonathan King, The First Fleet: The Convict Voyage that Founded Australia 1787–88 (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1982), 62
13. Jonathan King, The First Fleet: The Convict Voyage that Founded Australia 1787–88 (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1982), 98–99
17. Jonathan King, The First Fleet: The Convict Voyage that Founded Australia 1787–88 (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1982), 168

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