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Blog post from Friday, 6 March, 2015

On this day, 6 March 1788, Lieutenant Philip Gidley King established the first British settlement on Norfolk Island.

Norfolk Island lies approximately 1,500 km northeast of Sydney and is now one of Australia’s external territories. The first European to discover Norfolk Island was Captain James Cook, on 10 October 1774. Cook’s reports of tall, straight trees (Norfolk pines) and flax-like plants stirred the interest of Britain, whose Royal Navy was dependent on flax for sails and hemp for ropes from Baltic sea ports. Norfolk Island promised a ready supply of these items, and its tall pines could be utilised as ships’ masts. Therefore, Governor Arthur Phillip, Captain of the First Fleet to New South Wales, was ordered to also colonise Norfolk Island.

When the First Fleet arrived at Port Jackson in January 1788, Phillip ordered Lieutenant Philip Gidley King to lead a party of fifteen convicts and seven free men to take control of the island and prepare for its commercial development. They arrived on 6 March 1788. Neither the flax nor the timber industry proved to be viable, and the island developed as a farm, supplying Sydney with grain and vegetables during the early years of the colony’s near-starvation. Additional convicts were sent, and many chose to remain after they had served their sentences. Manuscripts, oral history & pictures - State Library of New South Wales

The Settlement on Norfolk Island, May 16th 1790 / George Raper

State Library of New South Wales