The Blackheath Connection logo gif - 31481 Bytes

This page (work-in-progress) updated 5 February 2010

[Previous page Australia, Ships and Convicts, Part One ] [You are now on a page filed as] [Next page - Australia, Ships and Convicts Part 3 ]

Please note: Email response to the The Blackheath Connection website indicates that some netsurfers do not realise that this website has 71++ files. Please navigate around the website to that extent to ensure you get the best from it - Ed

Australia, Ships and Convicts - Part One continued

(Convict and other ships to Australia to 1800)

Dan Byrnes
Word Factory
About this website:
The Phantom First Fleet:
Questions of slavery:
Latest news:
The William Bligh problem:
The First Campbells on Jamaica:
The Duncan Campbell Letterbooks:
Feedback on this project:
Links to sites on related topics:
Investors in C19th Australia - 1:
Investors in C19th Australia - 2:
Investors in C19th Australia - 3:
Investors in C19th Australia - 4:
A Bitter Pill - American debtors and Thomas Jefferson
Emptying the Hulks:
The Blackheath Connection - original article:
The London whalers from 1786 - an original article:
Bibliography - Part One:
Bibliography - Part Two:
Australia, Ships and Convicts - Part One:
Australia, Ships and Convicts: - Part 3
Australia, Ships and Convicts: - Part 4 new file
Presenting more of...
The Blackheath Connection
Australia, Ships and Convicts - Part One continued...

Note from the author:
The Blackheath Connection website has now been on the Internet since March 2000. Since then, it has attracted a good deal of attention (and e-mail) from Britain and Scotland, New Zealand, the Caribbean and the US eastern seaboard, but much less so from Australians.
It needs to be asked, why is this? Is it because Australians still have cultural sensitivities about convict transportation that they do not wish to discuss?
By now (mid-2003), it certainly seems so, as a matter of a self-imposed truncation of cultural curiosities/historical amnesia.
PayPal preferred graphic

If you value the information posted here,
and the projects of these websites in general,
you may like to consider making a donation
to help reduce our production costs?
It would be greatly appreciated.
Options include:
paying via PayPal which this website uses - Ed

For example, e-mail from the UK has been far more penetrating about England sending convicts to "Botany Bay", than e-mail from Australians about Australian colonies receiving convicts.
This website has had e-mail from some academic historians in the US/UK, and from many family history-minded people around the world, but from few, if any, historians in Australia, or their students, including high school students, though some family historians in Australia have e-mailed.
What is noticeable is that international e-mailers find the information on the website to be accurate and reliable, whereas Australians seem to be avoiding the website's information and the directions the information seeks out.
That is, people overseas find few cultural sensitivities with the material, Australians seem to be finding "cultural reasons" to avoid the material. (At last count, only one or two universities in Australian have staff who have linked to The Blackheath Connection.)
It seems then, that Australians prefer the old stories on convict transportation that they are used to, not new information which provokes fresh thinking on the topic. So the questions arise... Does this website cut too close to the bone? And if so, how and why?

Advertisement on Dan Byrnes Word Factory logo


PART ONE, continued

Plans for a breadfruit voyage

Part 1 - Section 4

During March 1787, In March 1787, Governor Phillip was discussing with the Home Office a plan to send a ship to Charlotte Sound, New Zealand to procure flax plants for Botany Bay - a plan which never eventuated. This being a botanical matter, it probably came to Banks' notice, in which context a point can be made.
On Banks generally, see also, Sir Joseph Banks - Warren R. Dawson, (Ed.), The Banks Letters: A Calendar of the Manuscript Correspondence of Sir Joseph Banks. London, Published by order of the trustees of the British Museum, 1958. Harold B. Carter, His Majesty's Spanish Flock: Sir Joseph Banks and the Merinoes of George III of England. Sydney, Angus And Robertson, 1964.

Banks was not just interested in "pure botany". As will be shown below, he was seen as a man who could comment usefully on plants which produced commodities - such as tea - and it was this facet of Banks' talents which kept him in contact with the network of shipping managers discussed here.
Alan Atkinson, 'Whigs and Tories and Botany Bay', Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 61, Part 5, March 1975., pp. 288-310. See Geoffrey Blainey, The Tyranny of Distance: How Distance Shaped Australia's History. Melbourne, Sun Books, 1966., p. 344, Note 55 to Ch 3, "Bligh in 1787 was to have collected two pots of New Zealand flax as well as breadfruit plants" - citing Dawson, The Banks Letters (p. 826 or Note 826? A mislaid citation?) But Dawson conveys that two pots of flax were taken to New Zealand, and that plants were to be collected from New Zealand.
David Mackay, In the Wake of Cook: Exploration, Science and Empire, 1780-1801. Wellington, New Zealand, Victoria University Press, 1985. Mackay in chapter 5 treats the breadfruit voyage as a matter of finding food for slaves on Jamaica. Mackay has the citation, 30 March, 1787, SJ Banks pointing out disadvantage of fitting a convict ship to go to Tahiti, citing CO/201/2/224, 9 March, 1787 after Banks in February 1787 suggested a convict transport go to Tahiti. Mackay, p. 141, Note 32, citing DTC, V, fo, 247, on a matter dated 9 Sept., 1787, for a more complex plan for fitting up two ships ex-NSW, one for China, one for India, as suggested by merchant Benjamin Vaughan. (Was this the Benjamin Vaughan the friend in London of Thomas Jefferson, so friendly to American interests?

By 30 March 30, 1787, about two months before the First Fleet sailed, Banks gave an opinion to Lord Sandwich and Lord Liverpool about not detaching a vessel from Sydney for any breadfruit voyage... "It is fully my opinion that the plan of sending out a vessel from England for the sole purpose of bringing the breadfruit to the West Indies is much more likely to be successful than that of detaching Transports from Botany Bay"...

(This was close to the time that the First Fleet contractor, William Richards went to Portsmouth to number the convicts for transportation; when he made his return of 1 April.)
April 1, 1787: Oldham, in his original thesis, p. 344. Treasury Board Papers, Reel 3551, TI/655, ML. Richards about April 1 had compiled his "General Return of Convicts for Botany Bay". See Wilfrid Oldham, Britain's Convicts to the Colonies. Sydney, Library of Australian History, 1990... a book which is a slightly modified version of Wilfrid Oldham, The Administration of the System of Transportation of British Convicts, 1763-1793. Ph.D thesis. London University, 1933. According to recent research by Armidale historian Paul Burns, about this time, William Richards was contactable at New York Coffee House, Lombard Street, London. Nothing arises from a Net search on this connection.

Dispelling a false air of mystery

Part 1 - Section 5

Treating Banks' career can be difficult, due to the sheer number of people he dealt with! There is also an air of secrecy!

Banks' biographer Carter writes: "The figure of Sir Joseph Banks is still only faintly etched on the historic records of the past two centuries. .... He remains to this day, therefore, a sort of historic ghost - a spectre that even at its best has been sensed only as a disarticulated mass and out of perspective. For this he was himself more responsible than anyone. He took few steps to ensure that his real shape and substance would survive."
Carter, Banks, 1988, Introduction, p. viii.

Carter laments that in England, Banks' career is still rather shadowy and obscure, although this is not how Australians feel about Banks. This career-obscurity has also helped obscure information on shipping movements, matters I hope to clear up here. The obscurity surrounding Banks' use of certain shipping - specific ships - also clouds views on the clique of shipowners said to have locked up the business of shipping convicts. In fact, Banks often dealt with ships carrying convicts to "Botany Bay", or with their owners or principals. Finally, there is in fact, no mystery at all, and any apparent air of secrecy is due more than anything else to a kind of commercial confidentiality normally exercised by shipowners of the day, mixed with various apparent coincidences on the high seas - and less so, due to any of Banks' own "urges to obscurity".

Banks' use of ships, and/or his dealings with shipowners, covered the remarkable set of his patterns of interest - pure botany, plant-transplantation (breadfruit), geography-in general, natural history, possible commercial use of plant-commodities, whaling, and red dye for army uniforms - cochineal. Much of the information on such dealings arose between 1785 and 1795, as the new Australian colony survived and rose, as the war with France annoyed Britain and the Continent, and as Britain trounced French interests in India.

Banks by 1785 had been assisting with the formation of the The Linnean Society of London, a society which emerged during Banks' presidency of the Royal Society. It was the first scientific society with similar interests in, broadly, "natural history". Banks was generally interested in natural history, and this fed his "direct interest" in maritime discovery. The Pacific stimulated his geographic curiosity, his views on Asia and the Far East meant he took an interest in activities of the East India Company. South Africa interested him, as did New Holland/NSW. Ideas would also arise for a society to explore the African interior.
Carter, Banks, 1988, pp. 240-241.

Banks' interest in Africa was enlivened by the activities of Henry Smeathman, who had met Francis Masson in Holland by 1773 or later. The 1785 voyage of Nautilus to Das Voltas (seeking a possible destination for convicts) was partly stimulated by Smeathman's views. Due to his sympathy with the abolition of slavery, and vis-a-vis Africa, by 1787, Banks maintained an interest in Sierra Leone for both philanthropic and botanical reasons.
During May 1785, regarding the transportation of convicts, deposing to Beauchamp's Committee, Banks gave testimony recommending Botany Bay as a destiantion, having in mind the "timid disposition" of the natives there. At the time, to the same committee, Commodore Edward Thompson was promoting the southern reaches of western Africa, which he had reconnoitred in 1784. Beauchamp's committee plumped for Thompson's Das Voltas site, and on 22 August, 1785, Lord Sydney asked the Admiralty to nominate a Commodore to survey the area. There sailed Nautilus Capt. T. B. Thompson, from the end of September 1785, returning 23 July, 1786. But Das Voltas was found to be a barren shore, treeless, waterless, with no useful harbour. On 18 August, 1786, Lord Sydney vetoed Das Voltas and on the 19th, Cabinet planned to colonize Botany Bay instead. Carter, Banks, 1988, pp. 214ff.

Advertisement on Dan Byrnes Word Factory logo


On Monday 9 June, 1788, there was a meeting of a social coterie, the Saturday Club, which dined at times at St Alban's Tavern off Pall Mall, a society for promoting the discovery of the African interior. Men interested included Henry Beaufoy MP, FRS, as secretary of this group (with Banks as its treasurer), Lord Rawdon FRS, the Bishop of LLandaff, and Andrew Stuart MP. An air of sececy was enjoined. The committee from the first were asked NOT to divulge information except to other members of the association "as they might from time to time receive from persons sent on missions of discovery". This was partly due to rivalry with Muslims, and other international rivalries. In time, the focus of this group's activities centred on Banks' residence at 32 Soho Square. Another meeting followed on Friday 13 June, 1788. and Banks was asked to see Lord Sydney about one Simon Lucas, an oriental interpreter at the Court of St James, to assist regarding any exploration of Africa. Sydney put this to the King's pleasure. The air of secrecy was the same air surrounding much of Banks' other activities and delvings.
Carter, Banks, 1988, pp. 240-242.

Other airs of secrecy surrounded other areas of interest. By 11 March, 1790, Banks had sent to William Devaynes of the East India Co. a proposal to provide a reward of £1000 for anyone procuring the true cochineal from Mexico/Spanish America, and this prize was uprated to £2000 by 1792. There was quite some early background to this.

By November 1787, Banks had been suffering gout for two months, while being "assailed" by the East India Co. (EICo) and Lord Hawkesbury on matters related to tea, cochineal and cotton (This was about the time Banks was receiving news of the king's bouts of mental illness, from 5 November, 1787.)

On Thursday 13 November, 1787, Banks received papers from Thos Morton (secretary of the EICo) on the Company's desire to have Banks' opinion on a botanic garden being established at Calcutta, and publication of a natural history of India. (At this time, prime minister Pitt was pressing Banks to become high sheriff of Lincolnshire, which did not appeal to Banks.) (Robert Kyd (died May 1793) had accepted a charge to develop a botanic gardens on the western bank of the Hooghly River.)

By 27 December, 1787, Banks delivered to Devaynes a report on possibilities for tea culture in India. (Greville from Kew reported to Banks on the condition of Geo III,who by 6 February 1788 was "much recovered" and wished to see Banks, which he did on 7 February, 1788. By March, 1788, there had been much contact between Banks and the king - Geo III was "almost a whole man again".
Carter, Banks, 1988, pp. 246ff, pp. 270-275.

Hardly surprising in the timeframe, ideas had arisen in London of cultivating tea in India, so relieving Britain of dependence on China for tea supplies. London's discussions on tea supplies in the timeframe had been extensive, rather brutally detailed.
See for example, Mui Hoh-cheung and Lorna M. Mui, 'William Pitt and the Enforcement of the Commutation Act, 1784-1788', English Historical Review, Vol. 76, No. 300., July 1961., pp. 447-465. Mui Hoh-Cheung and Lorna M. Mui, 'The Commutation Act and the tea trade in Britain, 1784-1793', Economic History Review, Series 2, Vol. 16, No. 2, December 1963., pp. 234-253. Mui Hoh-cheung and Lorna M. Mui, `Smuggling and British Tea Trade before 1784', American Historical Review, Vol. LXXIV, No. 1, October 1968., pp. 41-73.

Earlier in 1788, Hawkesbury had asked Banks if it was not possible to grow tea in British dominions in the East or West Indies, so as to relieve the dependence on China.

Early in November 1788, Banks, again suffering gout, Banks received two large bundles of papers from the EICo on Kyd's progress in Calcutta with his botanic gardens. Banks reported on 19 November, 1788, to EICo secretary Wm Ramsay, and some days later the Company's deputy-chairman, banker Francis Baring, invited Banks to enlarge on his views on any tea trade for India. Carter suggests that Hawkesbury, Henry Dundas and Baring "drove Banks hard" on such questions. Banks told Hawkesbury that given existing English failures to cultivate tea, and he recalled French attempts to cultivate tea in Corsica in 1785 (some samples of which Banks had obtained) that he thought tea could be tried about Bengal. (That is, the Assam area from which, as we know, the first Indian tea export would not emerge for another 50 years). Banks referred to the mission of Lt.Col, the Hon. Charles Cathcart's embassy to China, mounted at insistence of Henry Dundas, and thought that if tea could be brought out of China, it should go to the the area of Assam. Banks also inspected the statistics of William Richardson produced for the EICo and also used some of Lord Sheffield's sources. He also consulted EICo staff including the returning British resident at Canton, Mr Bradshaw, on processes of tea culture.

By 27 December, 1788, Banks had sent to Baring at the EICo about 2000 words on tea culture, mentioning possible tea cultivation at Bihar; that tea be transplanted from Hainan with the co-operation of renegade Chinese willing to sail for the EICo ships and to transplant tea at Calcutta's botanic gardens, while Col. Kyd would take matters from there, teaching Indians how to cultivate tea. This all would have needed the support of the EICo directors in London, as it might be unwise to mention the plan to the EICo supercargoes at Canton, as they might spoil such a plan. Again arose a need for secrecy.
Carter, Banks, 1988, pp. 271-273.

Advertisement on Dan Byrnes Word Factory logo


The cochineal plan

Secrecy continued. Banks informed Company directors that if they approved any tea plan, he would put himself at the disposal of the Company. Carter writes that Banks was "convinced that the objective was also of real importance to the country at large". Banks mentioned tea, also indigo as a possible production for India, and added in coffee, chocolate, vanilla, cochineal and cotton, even sugar. He was, he said, willing to talk about cochineal. (At this time, Baring, earlier a cloth merchant with yuiothful business experience in the salve trade, was no surprisingly interested in cochineal. From this time, also, John Prinsep in India would become of EICo pioneer of indigo production. Prinsep would later appear for a short time as a convict contractor to Sydney!)
See Philip Ziegler, The Sixth Great Power: Barings, 1762-1929. London, Collins, 1988., pp. 25ff. Carter, Banks, 1988, p. 273. Ziegler conveys, Baring lived in the City in Mincing Lane (where he was in fact a neighbour of the prison hulks overseer, Duncan Campbell, uncle-in-law of William Bligh). Even by 1793, Baring at Mincing Lane had "just a handful of clerks". Baring "had a kind of adventure and recklessness", and he dealt in tea and cochineal. He became an EICo director in 1779 (chairman in 1792-93) and as leader of the City Interest supported Pitt. By 1786, due to recent deaths of men of the EICO court, Baring was the most experienced member of the Court of Directors, close to Pitt and Dundas; though in 1791 he opposed Dundas, who wanted to abolish the Secret Committee of the Company, an inner council of directors, and to reduce the number of directors by way of reforming the Company's structure. Here, Baring became chief negotiator for the directors. Baring was made a baronet by 1793 for his work for the EICo. Baring rather thought the other directors were "fools or knaves", and given his interests outlined here, he later had two sons in the East, Thomas Baring in Bengal and Henry Baring in China, not without an interest in opium trade!

Banks wanted to preserve secrecy for any cochineal plan, possible source of "that scarlet dye" for, of course, British redcoats. At the time, the Spanish had a monopoly on cochineal supplies, a commodity the French called "Dutch scarlet". There were to consider, fine (refined, and a richer dye) cochineal and sylvester cochineal. John Maitland had samples of both kinds of cochineal. (This was presumably the John Maitland by 1804 in touch with the aspiring wool producer from Sydney, Australia, John Macarthur, ex-paymaster of the NSW Corps.)

Since February 1787, Banks had been in communication with Dr. James Anderson, later physician-general of the EICo at Madras, about a potential cochineal insect possibly native to India? The EICo directors here (including Baring) were very cautious here, and meantime, Banks was still dealing with the secret committee of the EICo. Banks arranged that Gov. Phillip would collect samples of cochineal (nopal) with its attendant insects at Rio de Janeiro for transport to Botany Bay; and Phillip did succeed in keeping alive his samples alive while they were there.
By 2 September, 1787, Phillip at Rio de Janeiro had consigned to Banks by an unnamed Southern Whaler per Mr Morton, late master of HM Sirius, various items including balsam and gum. Carter, Banks, 1988, from pp. 560ff, Appendix XIA. On Masson, noted above as an associate of Banks, we find from the same appendix by Carter... By 16 May, 1787, Francis Masson at Cape Town had consigned two boxes with 110 species of seeds for Banks, on Talbot Indiaman (see below) per Mr Staples, Bengal consul.

Here again is the air of commercial/national secrecy! Phillip was the first governor of the convict colony at Sydney, and had earlier (if briefly) been a spy in France for Britain. From Banks' point of view, the wide aggregation of interests made it necessary that he could deal confidentially with ships captains transporting his samples!

By January 1788 Banks sent a memorial to the EICo directors about cochineal as an object of national importance, and here, Banks was being pressured by Baring. So Banks got his correspondent in Honduras, James Bartlet, to send samples of cochineal (fina) insects to London for later transportation to India.
Carter, Banks, 1988, pp. 273-276.

However, by 11 March, 1790, Banks sent to William Devaynes of the EICo a proposal to make a reward of £1000 for the procurement of the true cochineal from Spanish America, and this was uprated to £2000 by 1792. (There had been a plan for a clandestine operation in South America) Here, Banks was considering taking advantage of the sailing of the Macartney expedition and embassy to China, (on 1 October, 1792) to obtain at Rio the cochineal insects (sylvester). The samples were shipped per the Enderby-owned whaler Hero, Capt Folger, and reached the Thames by 25 February, 1793. Banks himself took the samples to Spring Grove but he ended with a botanical failure.

Carter writes that Banks by May 1793 had recommended Christopher Smith as a gardener for the botanical garden at Calcutta (Kyd having died in May), and early in September 1794 he sailed with an assistant, Peter Good from Kew, on Royal Admiral Captain Bond with a consignment of useful plants for the Calcutta gardens, landing on 27 February, 1795. It appears that Royal Admiral was soon to go back to England, but before she did sail there arrived at Calcutta Capt Nelson of the 74 Regt with two small nopal plants from Rio, with plenty of cochineal insects sylvester. This and other experiments resulted in a cochineal dye at least equal to the South America sylvester cochineal, Carter says.

These reports from Carter end the air of mystery surrounding Banks use of ships, since the owners of these two ships mentioned in regard of "secret" cochineal transport were also interested in shipping convicts to Australia. The Enderbys, of Blackheath, were noted whaling promoters, while Royal Admiral was owned by the the Larkins family of Blackheath. Larkins' sent her only once to Sydney with convicts, as will be shown in a later section here. The point is that as patriots, some owners of convict shipping were quite supportive of Banks' various experiments. What is amazing is that it took two centuries for the role of the suburban location of Blackheath to be identified as a hub of such maritime activities!
There are other gaps in history-writing of various kinds. Interesting here is a recent - and otherwise quite likeable - book about the histories of Blackheath and Greenwich, as London suburbs. (See Felix Barker, (with additional material by Denise Silvester-Carr), Greenwich and Blackheath Past. London, Historical Publications, 1993. Revised 1999.) In maritime history, we find that by September 1793, Alexander Duncan at Canton had sent Banks some growing plants from China by ships Triton, Hindostan, Ceres, Northumberland, by East Indiaman Worley Capt. Wilson, and by Warren Hastings, which was probably about 6 May 1790, as listed in Lloyd's records, the Warren Hastings Capt. J. P. Larkins - of the Larkins family, owners of Royal Admiral. Carter, Banks, pp. 563ff, Appendix XIB.

And so by 18 August, 1796, Banks reported to Sir Hugh Inglis (an EICo notable) that the cochineal insect could be reared more effectively in India than in Brazil, and now a lucrative trade could supplant that of the Spanish. However, Banks felt he had endured eight years of alternate enthusiasm and neglect from the EICo directors (while there had earlier been a leak and the Spanish had found out about his plans for cochineal transplantation). Carter has written, "Thus, in the record of [those] two months alone, we have a glimpse of the botanical returns arriving at Kew from three great voyages - the 'First Fleet' under Governor Phillip to Botany Bay; the Vancouver expedition to the NW coast of America; and the second bread-fruit voyage of Bligh to Tahiti - with Banks somewhere at the centre and management of them all..."

(Incidentally, Macartney's embassy for China set sail from Spithead on 26 September, 1792, with Macartney and his entourage on HM Lion Capt Erasmus Gower. Their guard sailed on an attending ship, the Indiaman Hindostan Capt William McIntosh, plus the slow-sailing brig Jackal. The embassy reached Chusan Roads on 3 July, 1793, and went later to Peking, to find that the Chinese emperor dismissed these European strangers. Banks kept in touch by mail via every useful ship, and some plants such as nutmeg and mangosteen plants had been sent via homing Indiamen Royal Admiral and Sulivan by Banks' colleague, Staunton.
Carter, Banks, 1988, pp. 276-284, pp. 294-295.

Advertisement on Dan Byrnes Word Factory logo


Banks and whalers and sealers of the Pacific...

Part 1- Section 6

Banks' connections with promoting whaling and sealing have possibly been underrated? He dealt for example with the Enderbys, the South Whalers in general, and with the Etches, who were sealers.
By 17 July, 1788, R. Cadman Etches had written to Banks suggesting that convict labour be used to NW America (Nootka Sound), the source of seal fur. (See A. G. L. Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies: A Study of Penal Transportation from Great Britain and Ireland to other parts of the British Empire. London, Faber, 1966., p. 51.) Etches wrote again on the same topic by 20 July. Carter, Banks, 1988, p. 222. Various of Banks' communications with whalers/sealers are indicated variously in Margaret Steven, Trade, Tactics and Territory: Britain in the Pacific, 1783-1823. Carlton, Victoria, Melbourne University Press, 1983.

By November 1787, ships managed by Portlock-Dixon had reached Canton with 2552 sea-otter skins which sold for some $50,000, or less than $20 per skin. This was regarded as an inadequate profit for which Richard Etches blamed the two captains, but Carter says the fault lay with the way the EICo established its rules on fur trade, and by then, from 1786, Etches had already promoted another expedition with Prince of Wales Capt James Colnett and Princess of Wales under Capt Charles Duncan, with an EICo licence with even worse terms of trade. These ships left London in September 1786, with aboard yet another Banks contact, Archibald Menzies. Carter says it was to be a troubled voyage, as at Nootka, although Banks obtained many new specimens.
Note on co-ordination of ship movements: By early December 1788, J. H. Meares was again to Canton; a few days after his arrival the ship Prince of Wales (not the ship of that name of the First Fleet) and Princess Royal which had been fitted out from London by John and [Richard?] Cadman Etches and Co., sailing to Canton for a trading voyage on the NW coast of America, with licences from EICo and the South Sea Co., with John Etches as supercargo. See Meares Memorial, 1790. (J Meares sailing for Messrs. Etches, Cox and Co.)

Advertisement on Dan Byrnes Word Factory logo


About 26 August, 1788, the South Whalers, Enderby and Sons, wrote to Banks that they were about to send a ship to the southern whale fishery (the South Pacific). They asked, is Juan Fernandez settled? Was there any risk of a ship being detained? Where could a ship put in without risk? Were any Sperm whale about Cape Horn? Are there any charts available? Did Banks want anything from the Africa Coast?
Dawson, Banks Letters, p. 308.

The whalers were questing indeed, and were willing to be co-operative with Banks' activities. Meanwhile, in the summer of 1789, as the ill-fated supply ship, HM Guardian was being prepared to sail for Sydney, Banks got a letter from Archibald Menzies, dated 14 July, from Prince of Wales, then off the Isle of Wight after a three-year voyage to Nootka Sound. Just then, Dixon and Portlock were publishing their Voyage book. Menzies later sailed again on a sloop of war, with a tender, Chatam, on Discovery (Capt Henry Roberts, formerly out with Cook, and George Vancouver) - but their sailing dates were chopped up via the Nootka Controversy, due to Spanish alarm at the British spread in the Pacific. The Spanish sent their warships under Don Esteban Jose Martinez to challenge British settlement at Nootka Sound.

By January 1790, news of the arrest of British ships at Nootka had got to London, and Carter in his biography of Banks says the Discovery was absorbed into a Pitt-ish plan to use Botany Bay as a base for the protection of Nootka, which meant Discovery would sail to Botany Bay with HM Gorgon and from there sail under orders from Gov. Phillip, with reinforcements from Botany Bay, to Hawaii to await a frigate from the Indies squadron, by the end of April 1790. Discovery was almost ready for sea when Cabinet suddenly sent an ultimatum to Madrid backed by the mobilization of a large fleet. There followed a year's controversy. (At the time, the Spanish Ambassador to St James was Marquis del Campo di Alange, owner of the Negritti cabana of fine merinos.) Later was signed at Madrid the Anglo-Spanish Convention, on 28 October, 1790, requiring a British officer to go out to receive from the Spanish a formal surrender of the site at Nootka. So the expedition by Discovery and Chatam was revived, and in April 1790, Capt. Roberts was replaced by Vancouver, but Chatam Capt William Broughton was not ready until January 1791.
Carter, Banks, pp. 258-259.

These diplomatic wrangles had strange linkages with a little-understood manoeuvre by two London alderman, as follows...

In establishing major chronological reference points in respect of early Australasian and Pacific maritime history, it seems clear, and significant, that two London alderman, and ship men, George Macaulay and William Curtis, the first seeking Nootka Sound furs, the second noted as a long-time friend of the Greenland fishery, had joined in a deal by April 1787 in view of exploring the Pacific. They sent Lady Penrhyn, owned by Curtis, and on her maiden voyage, in the First Fleet to Sydney, Australia, arriving January 26, 1788. (Some of these matters are outlined further at the file: The Phantom First Fleet )

Banks and the breadfruit voyage

Part 1 - Section 7

Unexpectedly as history has been written, the story of the First Fleet ship Lady Penrhyn greatly interrupts the usually-told story of the breadfruit voyage of HMAV Bounty. To indicate how this is, the literary legend of The Mutiny on the Bounty needs to be deconstructed.

By 5 May, 1787, arose Lord Sydney's formal letter of authorization for HM Bounty's voyage. "Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, My Lords, The Merchants and Planters interested in His Majesty's West India Possessions have represented that the Introduction of the Bread Fruit Tree into those Islands to constitute an article of Food would be of very essential benefit to the inhabitants, and have humbly solicited that measures might be taken for procuring some Trees of that description from the place of their present growth to be transplanted in the said Islands ... some able and discreet officer ... half the plants to St Vincent ... other half to Jamaica ...
HO 28 microfilm 1163, National Library, Australia. Richard Humble, Captain Bligh. London, A. Baker Ltd., 1976., pp. 56-57.

(Note: various aspects of the Bounty breadfruit voyages are treated at length on other pages of this website, so material will not be repeated here - Ed)

Advertisement on Dan Byrnes Word Factory logo


By April-May 1787, the First Fleet ship, Lady Penrhyn, had presumably been given an EICo licence to take a tea cargo from Canton. In which case, she can be regarded as making a commercial reconnaissance voyage, via Australia, to NW America, then to China. At least, this was the original plan. By April 1787, London aldermen Curtis and Macaulay had decided to send Lt. Watts on Lady Penrhyn to NSW as part of the First Fleet. As a man who had been out with Cook, (a midshipman on Resolution, sailing with William Bligh), Watts has been greatly overlooked. A rare mention of him is contained in David Howarth, Tahiti: A Paradise Lost. (London, Harvill Press, 1983.. pp. 143ff).

Howarth is one of the few writers treating Lady Penrhyn's voyage to Tahiti after she left Sydney. (And it is remarkable how it is easy enough in books to track commercial motives for the departure of British ships to any destination - such as NW America, the West Indies, to India or China, but not regarding the convict ships to Australia - as though it is a taboo subject that somehow risks slandering the prestige of Captain Cook!)

More will be detailed below on Lady Penrhyn's voyage to Tahiti, arriving there before Bounty arrived. By 26 October, 1788, Bligh on Bounty had entered Matavi Bay, Tahiti. By 27 October, 1788, (Howarth, p. 147), Lady Penrhyn had been about a week at Macao, China.

Relevant dates: By 8 August, Lady Penrhyn was by Penrhyn Island, named by Capt. Sever. By 15 September, by the Isle of Saypan. On 17 September she refreshed at Tinian. By 15 October she was by Grafton isle. By 19 October, she sailed up Macao Roads, readying to take her cargo of tea. About China, Lady met a ship named Talbot.
The meeting with Talbot is confirmed in Ruth Campbell, 'New South Wales and the Glocester Journal, 1787-1790', Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 68, Part 3, December 1982., pp. 169-180.
Then Lady Penrhyn went home, presumably to the enrichment of Curtis and Macaulay, and possibly William Richards. And to be remembered mainly because she had carried only women to Botany Bay, not because she represented a mystery about the tenor of London's commercial instincts about the Pacific. On Tahiti, on 26 October, 1788, Bligh entered Matavi Bay on Bounty.
Some of Lt. Watts' writings can be found in Arthur Phillip, The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay, With an Account of the Establishment of the Colonies of Port Jackson and Norfolk Island, including the journals of Lts. Shortland, Watts, Ball and Capt. Marshall. Melbourne, Facsimile edition for Georgian House, 1950.

Note: At least two stories appear as to why Lady Penrhyn did not go to North-West America. One is that she had developed a bad bottom (worm-ridden), by the time she got to Tahiti. Or, that the crew was too weak from scurvy. The ship's surgeon, Bowes-Smythe, opted for the scurvy explanation (see Bowes-Smythe's Journal, pp. 98ff). Watts took command of the ship on 18 May 1788. She was near Tahiti on 16 June, and arrived there 10 July, staying at Tahiti only ten days, not long enough to improve the crew's health. A decision not to go to America had possibly been made by 3 July. Scurvy symptoms began to dissipate by 3 August. By 18 October she was at Macao, then to Whampoa by 21-23 October. By 14 January 1789 she was leaving Macao to make for Java, Pulare of Malaya, then St Helena, to the Isle of Wight.

Advertisement on Dan Byrnes Word Factory logo


Follows a report on how Watts was to take charge of Lady Penrhyn.

On Sunday 18 may 1788 (from Bowes-Smythe's journal, p. 86), This day at 12'Clock in the presence of Mr Watts, Capt. Sever, Mr. [Nicholas] Anstis & myself the papers relative to our future destination were open'd wh. specified the Mackenzie M'Caulay [London alderman, George Mackenzie Macaulay] had engaged to pay such a Sum of Money pr. Month for the hire of the Ship after She was discharged at Botany Bay for so many months previous to her going to China, the Ship to be Navigated by Capt. Sever under the Direction of Mr. Watts. (All unforeseen accidents or contingencies excepted.) - - Now the plan was for the Ship to go to the North-West Coast of America to trade for Furrs, under the management of Mr. Watts, whom M'Caulay had appointed to that Trust - - After wh. the Ship was to proceed on her voyage to China where She was chartered to take in a Cargo of Tea on Acct. of the East India Co. But as the voyage was rather an uncomfortable one & not free from danger, it was thought necessary to promise premiums to the different Officers & people in the Ship, & wh. premiums Mr Watts was authorised to use his discretion in giving so as the sum so distributed did not exceed 200 pounds and wh. he intended upon his Arrival at China to assign as follows. Capt. 50£. Chief Mate 20£. Surgeon 10£. Second Mate 15£. Third Mate 10£. Four Quarter Masters 4£ Each. Steuard 6£. Boatswain 10£. Carpenter 12£. Cook 4£. Thirteen Seamen 3£ Each, To one Ordinary Seamen £1/15/0d. To 5 Boys £1/16/0d Each - - (See also, H. V. Bowen, 'British India, 1765-1813: The Metropolitan Context', in Oxford History of the British Empire, The Eighteenth Century as edited by P. J. Marshall.)

Read now another major article by Dan Byrnes on London-based British whalers entering the Pacific from 1786... "Outlooks for the South Whale Fishery", earlier print-published in an academic journal.

View these domain stats begun 18 December 2005

Google logo

WWW Dan Byrnes Word Factory websites

Inkwell gifBall and chain gif Gavel gif

scrolend gif
Chainline divider gif

Stop press for late entries