We're open every day over Easter, except Good Friday, 30 March. Opening hours and services will change on Easter Monday, 2 April. Find our Easter opening hours here.
First Fleet departs from England
On this day, 13th May 1787, the 11 ships which became known as the First Fleet departed from Portsmouth, England, on a voyage which founded the penal colony in New South Wales.
By the late1780s, The British prison system was overflowing, and a new place had to be found to ship the prison inmates. The American colonies were no longer viable, following the American war of Independence. Following Captain Cook’s voyage to the South Pacific, the previously uncharted continent of New Holland proved to be suitable.
On 18 August 1786 the decision was made to send a colonisation party of convicts, military and civilian personnel to Botany Bay, New South Wales, under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip, who was appointed Governor-designate. The First Fleet consisted of 775 convicts on board six transport ships, accompanied by officials, crew, marines and their families who together totalled 645. As well as the convict transports, there were two naval escorts and three storeships.
Read more on our Discover Collections feature.