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First Fleet Journal of the week: William Bradley

First Fleet Journal of the week: William Bradley

William Bradley was appointed First Fleet Lieutenant on board HMS Sirius, Captained by John Hunter, in October 1786. His First Fleet Journal begins in December of that year prior to departure in May 1787. The journal is a detailed account of the voyage to NSW and subsequent surveys of Sydney Harbour with Hunter (Bradley’s Point is named after him).

The journal records Bradley’s interest in Aboriginal people and natural history. Other notable features are the 22 charts recording early survey expeditions of the colony (his sketch of the encampment in March 1788 is the earliest known map of Sydney); and 29 watercolours of great historical interest. These include drawings of the fleet entering Sydney harbour, interactions with Aboriginal people, and images of settlement including Government House.

Bradley’s journal entries for May 1787 contain tables summarising the make-up of the first fleet including the number of convicts and their children. For the Sirius he lists the officers, crew and marines naming senior personnel such as Captains Arthur Phillip and John Hunter, Surgeon George Worgan, Lieutenants William Bradley, Philip G. King and George W. Maxwell, and Lieutenant of Marines William Dawes.

The Sirius sailed to Cape of Good Hope in October 1788 for supplies for the colony and the journal records this and other events such as an ill-fated voyage to Norfolk Island and Bradley’s ultimate return to England in 1791.

The journal was unknown until 1923. The Mitchell Library acquired it from a London bookseller in 1924.

Bradley’s First Fleet Journal now digitised with a complete transcription can be viewed online.

The Journal was published in 1969 by the Trustees of the State Library. Copies of this print edition (including watercolour drawings) can also be viewed in the Mitchell Library.