On January 18, 1788, the first shipload of convicts landed in Botany Bay, Australia. Referred to as the First Fleet, the entourage consisted of two Royal Navy escort ships, six convict transports, and three store ships.
The territory had been claimed for Britain on Captain James Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific in April 1770. In December 1785, that land was declared to be a penal colony. England needed a new place to be able to send their convicted felons. They had previously sent them to the colonies in North America. However, this option was no longer available since England had recently lost the American Revolutionary War.
The first fleet, under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip, left Portsmouth harbor on May 13, 1787, with about 1,500 people on board the many ships. They arrived in botany Bay on January 18. However, upon inspection, Captain Phillip decided that the bay was inhospitable. They instead traveled 12 km north to what James Cook had named Port Jackson today. Part of Sydney’s harbor. There, they landed and raised the British flag.
Their arrival in Botany Bay on January 18 marked the beginning of European settlement in Australia.