Friday, 25 November 2011

Second Fleet ships - notes

In 1789 it was decided to send a second fleet of ships to Port Jackson. The Navy Board awarded the tender to the slave trading firm Camden, Calvert and King, possibly as a cheap solution to the problem of overcrowded gaols. The contractors were given special permission from the East India Company to return via China to collect supplies of tea.

On 27 August 1789 a contract was signed by a representative of Camden, Calvert and King agreeing to supply three ships in good condition with accommodation convicts including irons and handcuffs plus items such as cooking equipment, bedding, cutlery and lamps.

The crew for each ship was to number at least six men and one boy for each 100 tons of ship.

A qualified surgeon was also to be allocated to each ship with access to medicines, oil of tar, essence of malt, spice, barley, oatmeal sugar and wine for the sick.

Ration of provisions for each mess of six male convicts for seven days - 16 lb bread, 12 lb flour, 14 lb beef, 8 lb pork, 12 pints of pease (a mixture of split peas, oats and water), 1.5 lbs butter and 2lbs rice.
Ration of provisions for each mess of six female convicts for seven days - 20 lb bread, 12 lb flour, 7 lb beef, 6 lb pork, 12 pints of pease, 1.5 lbs butter, 2lbs rice, 1/4 lb tea and 3 lbs sugar.
Ration for each soldier for seven days - 7 lb bread, 4 lb beef, 2 pints pease, 6 oz butter, 7 galleons of beer or 3.5 pints of rum or 7 pints of wine, 2 lb pork, 3 pints oatmeal, 12 oz cheese.
Fresh food to the value of sixpence for convicts and to the value of one shilling for soldiers was to be provided for two days a week while at foreign ports.

Each mess of convicts was to be provided with 2 lbs soap a month.

The contractors were to be paid 17 pounds, 7 shillings and sixpence for each convict embarked. Fifteen pounds was paid before sailing and the rest when it was proved that the stores had arrived safely.

There was no provision for the safe arrival of the convicts.

When it was obvious that all the required stores could not be shipped in the three requisitioned ships a store-ship was added to the fleet.

The ships of the Second Fleet:

Nine hundred and thirty-nine male convicts and seventy-eight female convicts emarked on these Second Fleet ships but eleven men disembarked before sailing.

Convicts aboard the transports at time of sailing:
Surprize 254 male convicts
Neptune 421male & 78 female convicts
Scarborough 253 male convicts

The Justinian was loaded in the Thames with 1,400 casks of flour, 233 barrels of pork plus smaller quantities of beef, oatmeal, pease, vinegar, spirits, oil and sugar. Other items included 162 bales of clothing, coverlets, blankets and cloth and a portable military hospital which had been dismantles into 602 pieces. Quantities of flour and salt beef and pork were loaded on the other three ships for consumption during the voyage and also as supplies for the colony. Vinegar to be used as a disinfectant and mouthwash was also supplied to each ship.

The contract for the transportation of convicts required each convict to be provided with clothing.
Men - outside jacket, waistcoat, hat, worsted cap, two shirts as well as  two pairs of stockings, drawers, trousers and shoes plus a bag in which to place items not being used.
Women - striped jacket, striped petticoat, pair of stays, hat, two flannel petticoats, two shifts, two handkerchiefs and two pairs of stockings and shoes as well as a bag to hold unused items.
Many convicts had brought with them personal items but may of the boxes and other items were thrown overboard before the ships left England.

The transports left the Motherbank off the Isle of Wight on 19 January 1790 with the Surprize arriving at Port Jackson on 26 July 1790 followed two days later by the other two ships. The Justinian sailed from Cornwall on 19 January arriving at Port Jackson on 21 June.

The mortality rate aboard the ships was extremely high.
Surprize 36 male convict deaths (14%)
Neptune 147 male & 11 female convict deaths (31%)
Scarborough 73 male convict deaths (28%)
According to Reverend Johnson, a further 84 convicts, one child and one soldier died during the three weeks after arriving at Port Jackson. Watkin Tench, a marine officer reported that a total of 124 convicts died in the months after the arrival of the Second Fleet. Many other convicts were on the sick list.

Much needed supplies were delivered to the colony, particularly flour, beef and pork as well as sugar, oil, oatmeal, pease, spirits, and vinegar. Left over provisions not used during the voyage were sold to anyone who could afford to purchase them.
When the "Death Fleet" returned to England enquiries were held about the trip to Sydney Cove including the death toll. The Navy Board's report of 15 February 1792 defended the contractors.  In May Donald Trial and Chief Mate Ellerington were tried specifically for the murder of two crewmen and a convict. Members of the crew of the Neptune gave evidence on events that had occurred on the ship including sadistic beatings and floggings of crew and convicts for petty offences and also serving  the crew inadequate amounts of bad quality food with even smaller portions to the convicts  resulting in many starving to death. A report from the Reverend Johnson and others in the colony who had witnessed the conditions of the ships on arrival were also presented. The contrast was made between the landing of emaciated convicts at Sydney Cove with the large quantity of additional stores that the captain had kept back to sell at exorbitant prices to settlers. The officers had their own version to tell, that the convicts had had access to fresh air and exercise and had received sufficient rations and that  that the deaths were largely due to bad weather encountered during the voyage and an outbreak of scurvy. No effort was made to test the statements of the officers against the claims of the crew and those already in the colony.

Before the hearings in London regarding the Second Fleet took place the firm, Camden, Calvert and King, was awarded the contract to transport the convicts of the Third Fleet arriving in Sydney Cove between July and October 1791.
  • Bateson, Charles. The convict ships 1787-1868. Library of Australian History, 2004
  • Flynn, Michael. The Second Fleet: Britain's grim convict armada of 1790. Library of Australian History, 1993

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