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Blog post from Tuesday, 22 April, 2014

First Fleet Journal of the week: Arthur Bowes Smyth

Arthur Bowes Smyth was Surgeon on board the Lady Penrhyn, the ship that brought women convicts to the colony.

His First Fleet journal is one of the most detailed eyewitness accounts of the first weeks of European settlement of Australia.

Bowes Smyth’s first journal entry dated 22 March 1787 records the full crew list and the women convicts, their name, age, trade, crime, and term of transportation. Click here for the transcript which is linked to the library catalogue.

The journal is a detailed account of the voyage, recording weather observations and shipboard life including treatment of the sick and descriptions of ports of call in particular, Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town. His journal is notable for its interest in natural history including descriptions of bird life at Port Jackson and Lord Howe Island on the Lady Penrhyn’s return voyage. The journal contains 25 drawings in watercolour and ink, including the earliest known surviving illustration of the emu by a European.

The journal entries for 18–26 January are a fascinating record of first impressions on arrival including interactions with Aboriginal communities and descriptions of the vegetation, intense heat, and native wildlife.

Click on this link to the Library’s Discover Collections for a transcript of the Lady Penrhyn’s arrival and selected transcripts from the other First Fleet Journals.