The Expedition to Botany Bay, by Watkin Tench

CHAPTER II.

From the Departure, to the Arrival of the Fleet at Teneriffe.

Governor Phillip having at length reached Portsmouth, and all things deemed necessary for the expedition being put on board, at daylight on the morning of the 13th, the signal to weigh anchor was made in the Commanding Officer’s ship the Sirius. Before six o’clock the whole fleet were under sail; and, the weather being fine and wind easterly, proceeded through the Needles with a fresh leading breeze. In addition to our little armament, the Hyena frigate was ordered to accompany us a certain distance to the westward, by which means our number was increased to twelve sail: His Majesty’s ships ‘Sirius’, ‘Hyena’, and ‘Supply’, three Victuallers with two years stores and provisions on board for the Settlement, and six Transports, with troops and convicts. In the transports were embarked four captains, twelve subalterns, twenty-four serjeants and corporals, eight drummers, and one hundred and sixty private marines, making the whole of the military force, including the Major Commandant and Staff on board the Sirius, to consist of two hundred and twelve persons, of whom two hundred and ten were volunteers. The number of convicts was five hundred and sixty-five men, one hundred and ninety-two women, and eighteen children; the major part of the prisoners were mechanics and husbandmen, selected on purpose by order of Government.

By ten o’clock we had got clear of the Isle of Wight, at which time, having very little pleasure in conversing with my own thoughts, I strolled down among the convicts, to observe their sentiments at this juncture. A very few excepted, their countenances indicated a high degree of satisfaction, though in some, the pang of being severed, perhaps for ever, from their native land, could not be wholly suppressed; in general, marks of distress were more perceptible among the men than the women; for I recollect to have seen but one of those affected on the occasion, “Some natural tears she dropp’d, but wip’d them soon.” After this the accent of sorrow was no longer heard; more genial skies and change of scene banished repining and discontent, and introduced in their stead cheerfulness and acquiescence in a lot, now not to be altered.

To add to the good disposition which was beginning to manifest itself, on the morning of the 20th, in consequence of some favorable representations made by the officers commanding detachments, they were hailed and told from the Sirius, that in those cases where they judged it proper, they were at liberty to release the convicts from the fetters in which they had been hitherto confined. In complying with these directions, I had great pleasure in being able to extend this humane order to the whole of those under my charge, without a single exception. It is hardly necessary for me to say, that the precaution of ironing the convicts at any time reached to the men only.

In the evening of the same day, the Hyena left us for England, which afforded an early opportunity of writing to our friends, and easing their apprehensions by a communication of the favourable accounts it was in our power to send them.

From this time to the day of our making the land, little occurred worthy of remark. I cannot, however, help noticing the propriety of employing the marines on a service which requires activity and exertion at sea, in preference to other troops. Had a regiment recruited since the war been sent out, sea-sickness would have incapacitated half the men from performing the duties immediately and indispensably necessary; whereas the marines, from being accustomed to serve on board ship, accommodated themselves with ease to every exigency, and surmounted every difficulty.

At daybreak, on the morning of the 30th of May we saw the rocks named the Deserters, which lie off the south-east end of Madeira; and found the south-east extremity of the most southerly of them, to be in the latitude of 32 deg 28 min north, longitude 16 deg 17 1/2 min west of Greenwich. The following day we saw the Salvages, a cluster of rocks which are placed between the Madeiras and Canary Islands, and determined the latitude of the middle of the Great Salvage to be 30 deg 12 min north, and the longitude of its eastern side to be 15 deg 39 min west. It is no less extraordinary than unpardonable, that in some very modern charts of the Atlantic, published in London, the Salvages are totally omitted.

We made the island of Teneriffe on the 3d of June, and in the evening anchored in the road of Santa Cruz, after an excellent passage of three weeks from the day we left England.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 20:04