Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Calcutta - 1803

Embarked: 307 men
Voyage: 168 days
Deaths 8
Surgeon's Journal: no
Previous vessel: Rolla arrived 12 May 1803
Next vessel: Coromandel 7 May 1804
Captain Daniel Woodriff.
Surgeon Edward Foord Bromley
James Hingston Tuckey, First Lieutenant
Prisoners and passengers of the Calcutta identified in the Hunter Valley region

In 1802, the Calcutta was engaged to convey convicts and settlers to a new settlement at Port Phillip. The convicts embarked on the Calcutta came from districts throughout England including Somerset, London, Hertford, Kent, Shropshire, Warwick, Surrey and Essex.

David Collins' Appointment

David Collins was informed of his appointment as Lieutenant-Governor of the new settlement by Lord Hobart on 7th February 1803{Extract}.......

The King having been pleased to appoint you to be Lieutenant-Governor of the settlement intended to be formed in Bass's Streights, I herewith enclose your commission; and I have received His Majesty's commands to furnish you with the following Instructions for your guidance in discharging the important trust with which you are vested.

His Majesty's ship Calcutta has been appointed to receive on board three hundred male convicts now under sentence of transportation, whose names are contained in the List No. 1 hereunto annexed and about thirty women, to whom in consideration of some favourable circumstances which have appeared in the characters of their husbands, it has been judged proper to allow the permission of accompanying them into exile, and of taking with them their children to the number of ten.
David Collins
The captain of the Calcutta has orders from the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to receive you on board of that ship, together with such persons on the civil establishment of the ship, together with such persons on the civil establishments of the intended settlement as may be directed to accompany you with a proportion of provisions, tools, and all necessary implements; and he will be instructed by their Lordships to take under his convoy the ship Ocean, which has been provided by the Transport Board for the purpose of assisting in the conveyance of such persons and stores as cannot be received on board the Calcutta....

As soon after your embarkation as circumstances will permit you will make the necessary arrangements for classing the convicts, according to their several trades and former employments in order to their being kept in some kind of occupation during the voyage.

A few pieces of woollen cloth, a quantity of leather, and of linen, with such articles as are requisite for working them will be put on board for the employment of the men, and a proportion of worsted for knitting and other things for that of the women during the voyage, and in order to excite, if possible some degree of industry amongst the convicts, by the expectation of immediate reward, a small quantity of wine and spirits and of tea and sugar will be allowed, for the purpose of being given on Sundays, and on proper occasions, to such as may merit the indulgence by good behaviour and attention

Rev. Robert Knopwood's List of Passengers on Calcutta


Daniel Woodriff Esq. Captain, Royal Navy
James Tuckey 1st Lieut.
Richard Donovan 2nd Lieut
Ncholas Pateshall 3 Lieut
William Dowers 4th Lieut
John Houston 5th Lieut
Richard Wright Master
Edward Bromley Surgeon
Edward White Purser


General Sir Charles Menzies Royal Marines Museum
Lieutenant Charles Menzies 1st Lieut., Royal Marines Museum. (appointed Commandant at Newcastle in 1804)
J.M. McCulloch 2nd Lieut

Stone and Gammon


Lieut-Colonel David Collins - Lieut Governor
Revd. Robert. Knopwood Assistant Chaplain
Ben Barbold (did not come out) Deputy Judge Advocate
William J'Anson - Assistant Surgeon

Matthew Bowden 2nd Assistant Surgeon
William Hopley - 3rd Assistant Surgeon
Leonard Fosbrook - Deputy Commissary
G.P. Harris - Deputy Surveyor
A.W.H.Humphry - Mineralogist
Thomas Clark - Superintendent of Convicts
William Patterson - Superintendent of Convicts
John Ingle - Overseer
William Parish - Overseer

Lieut-Col. Collins per Calcutta
William Sladden - 1st Lieut per Ocean
J.M. Johnson 2 Lieut. per Calcutta
Edward Lord - 3 Lieut. per Ocean
Serjeants 3
Corporals 3
Drummer 1
Fifer 1
Privates 39

Mr. Collins - seaman
Edward Newman - Ship Carpenter
Mr. Hartley - Seaman
Edward F. Hamilton
John J. Gravie
Mr. Pownall
A female servant
Thomas Collingwood - Carpenter
Duke Charman
John Skilhorne - Cutler
Anty. Fletcher - Mason
T.R. Preston - Pocketbook maker

James Hingston Tuckey's Account of the Voyage

James Hingston Tuckey was first-lieutenant on the Calcutta. He was about twenty-six years of age. On his return to England in 1805 he published details of the voyage in An Account of the Voyage to establish a Colony at Port Phillip.

The paragraphs below are extracts from his Account......

The motives, which, in the year 1802, induced Government to employ King's ships in transporting convicts to New South Wales, appear to have had their foundation, not only in principles of economy, but also in the union of many other advantages, which promised to be the result. Until this period, merchant ships had always been chartered to convey these victims of vice and folly to the place of their destination: independent of the expense of these vessels, which was a dead loss to Government, the abuses disgraceful to humanity, that too frequently took place on board of them, called aloud for correction.

By employing king's ships on this service, a number of officers and seamen would be provided for, who might otherwise emigrate to foreign services, and be totally lost to their country; and again, it must naturally be supposed, that the Officers, having neither pecuniary nor commercial interest in the voyage, would conduct it upon principles very different from those of mercenary, and perhaps illiterate traders; at the same time that the former would be enabled to keep the convicts in a better state of discipline, and also be more careful of their health, by that constant attention to cleanliness, which characterizes the British navy. To these obvious and immediate advantages, was added another, which, though merely speculative, promised, if successful, to exceed them all. It was known, that timber, supposed to be peculiarly adapted to naval uses, might be procured at New South Wales with little difficulty or expense, and in the present time of its increasing scarcity and great demand at home, both for public and private service, this was an object of the first national importance. It was therefore determined to try the experiment, when, by the conclusion of peace, the nation began to breathe, after the late long and arduous contest. The ships of the navy best calculated for this purpose, were decidedly those built for the East India Company, and purchased into the King's service during the war; and accordingly, the
Glatton sailed for Port-Jackson in September

The Calcutta was another ship of the like class as the Glatton. They were fitted exactly alike. They had 18 guns on the upper deck; rigged as 56 gun ships, with a compliment of 170 men.

The Calcutta was intended to pursue the same route, and was commissioned in the following October (1802) but while fitting out a change was made in her destination. Since the discovery of Bass's Strait it had entered into the contemplation of government to establish a settlement at its western entrance. To carry this project into execution, several necessary alterations took place in the equipment of the Calcutta; and the command of her was conferred on Captain Daniel Woodriff, an experienced naval officer, who had before visited New South Wales, as Agent of Transports (on the Kitty).

As the Calcutta was found insufficient to convey the necessary stores for the new settlement, the Ocean, a merchant-ship of 500 tons burthen was chartered for that purpose, and was afterwards to proceed to China, for a cargo of teas: on board her were embarked the civil, and part of the military officers, and settlers; together with the greater part of the stores, provisions, and implements of agriculture; while the Calcutta conveyed the whole of the convicts (308 men), their wives and children, and the remainder of the stores, as well as a considerable quantity for Port Jackson [1].


The Calcutta arrived at Plymouth from Sheerness on Tuesday 8th February. Plymouth on this day was cloudy with north westerly winds. The Calcutta was to remain at Plymouth to receive any convicts from the prisons of Bodmin, Exeter or Plymouth. On the 10th February she was intending to sail for Portsmouth to collect more convicts, however from the violence of the Easterly wind at the time, she overshot her port in the night. She remained at Plymouth awaiting a change in the winds and did not reach Portsmouth until the 13th February.


Late in February 1803 The Duke of Northumberland sent from his estate at Alnwick Castle a number of sheep with two rams of a particular breed to embark on the Calcutta. It was hoped they would prove a great advantage to the colony as the sheep were known to invariably produce from 2 to 4 lambs.

Prisoners who were held in the Captivity Hulk at Portsmouth were sent on board the Calcutta on 9th April 1803.

Departure from England

The Ipswich Journal reported the imminent departure of the Calcutta on 15th and 30 April 1803......

His Majesty's ship Calcutta, Capt. Woodriffe, has dropped down to Long Reach, nearly ready for sea; she is to take 450 convicts, men and women for New South Wales.

T. Scott Smith, the sham Parson of St. Martin's who was convicted of forgery, but had his sentence commuted for perpetual transportation, goes in this ship for Port Jackson

Lieut. Col. Collins of the Marines and lately Judge Advocate of Port Jackson, has been appointed Lieutenant Gov. of a Settlement, about to be formed at Port Phillip in Bass Straits, in the southern parts of New Holland, about latitude 40. The convicts going out in the Calcutta are to form this new Colony, and the military force is to comprise 200 marines exclusive of officers. Port Phillip so named after Gov. Phillip, is in the finest country imaginable, abounding with excellent harbours, and is considered as much superior in point of soil to Port Jackson. Lieut. Colonel Collins is intimately acquainted with that part of the world, and has written some interesting tracts on the subject. His salary is fixed at 500 pounds a year. Gov. Hunter has received a pension of 300 pounds per annum for his services in New South Wales
. - Ipswich Journal 15 January 1803

His Majesty's ship Calcutta, now at Portsmouth, Capt. D. Woodriff is going to New South Wales with convicts, where a new Colony is to be formed, under the government of Lieut. Col. Collins, of the Royal Marines; she is accompanied by the Ocean transport, which has on board a number of volunteer settlers. It is highly to the credit of Capt. W. and his Officers to records, that with 300 convicts on board, now 3 months, they have only had one death, Smith, the sham parson; and at this moment only 3 on the sick list, and those not dangerously; this is entirely to be attributed to the unremitted exertion of the Officers to have them clean; at 5 every morning their hammocks are carried up on the booms, and the decks washed and scraped; and as many are admitted in turn, as is consistent with safety, upon deck for 2 hours every day. The 7 mutineers from the 25th regiment, who were sent home from Gibraltar, came on board on Friday evening. The Rev. Mr. Knopwood goes out Chaplain to the settlement.

On board the Calcutta, Government have allowed 50 healthy young women to go out with them; they, doubtless, will form not the least important part of the stock taken out for the effectual colonization of this hitherto unexplored region, certainly situated at the farthest limits of the known world
. Ipswich Journal 30 April 1803.

The Voyage

The Calcutta touched at Tenerife, Rio de Janeiro and the Cape of Good Hope.

Below is Lieutenant Tuckey's account of the departure of the Calcutta and the arrival at those places. He gives a description of crossing the line and of the situation of some of the convicts and their wives....

'The Calcutta arrived at Portsmouth, from the river Medway, in the middle of February 1803, where she waited the junction of the Ocean, which was protracted until the 8th of April. The first weeks of this month the winds had been constantly from the eastward; but various trifling causes, which commonly retard expeditions of this nature, prevented our taking advantage of them, and when these obstacles were removed, the winds, as if determined to shew their contempt for the ambitious, and too often short-sighted views of man, suddenly changed to the westward, and blew with a degree of violence that left no hopes of succeeding, should we attempt to beat down Channel. Perhaps no situation can be more irksome than this to a sailor; when his mind is made up for departure, every delay that impedes it, is felt as a misfortune; and yet such is the contradiction in the mind of man, that while he wishes, he fears the removal of these impediments, and would still linger out another day, to accomplish something which is yet undone, or perhaps to take another last farewell of friends, to whom he has already bidden fifty times adieu.

The first moment of a favourable wind we took advantage of, and quitted St. Helen's on the morning of the 26th; but on the evening of the next day, the wind again veering to the westward, and blowing hard, obliged us to run through the Needles, and take shelter in Yarmouth Roads. The following morning, with a strong breeze from the northward, we again put to sea, and cleared the Channel on the 29th. This part of a foreign voyage, though a mere point as to distance, is reckoned by sailors the most material and difficult; for the English Channel is so situated, that the prevailing westerly winds make the egress from it extremely precarious, particularly in winter.

In bidding farewell to England, it may naturally be supposed, that the feelings of our motley crew would be as various as their situations, their prospects, or their characters; yet the general sentiment seemed to be that of entire indifference: a few women alone, whose birth and education had promised them a far different fate, were affected by this heart-rending, though voluntary, exile from their native country; and

' Shudd'ring still, to face the distant deep,

'Return'd, and wept, and still return'd to weep.'

Among the convicts on board, were some who, by prodigality, and its attendant vices, had degraded themselves from a respectable rank in society, and were indebted to the lenity of their prosecutors alone for an escape from the last sentence of the law. Some of these men were accompanied by their wives, who had married them in the sunshine of prosperity, when the world smiled deceitfully, and their path of life appeared strewed with unfading flowers; in the season of adversity, they would not be separated, but reposed their heads upon the same thorny pillow ; and as they had shared with them the cup of joy, they refused not that of sorrow. Those alone who know the miserable and degraded situation of a transported felon, can appreciate the degree of connubial love, that could induce these women to accompany their guilty husbands in their exile. The laws can only make distinction in crimes, while the criminals, whatever may have been their former situation in life, must suffer alike for crimes of the same nature: it therefore entirely depended on us to ameliorate their condition, and grant such indulgences, as the nature and degree of the crime, and the otherwise general character and conduct of the prisoner seemed to deserve.

To these helpless females, all the attentions that humanity dictated, and that the nature of our service would admit, were extended, but still it was impossible to separate their situations entirely from their guilty husbands, they were consequently far, very far, from being comfortable; and one of them, borne down by the first hardships of the voyage, which she felt with redoubled force from being far advanced in her pregnancy, fell a victim to her misplaced affection before our arrival at Teneriffe.

The ships anchored before Santa Cruz on the 17th of May, and having completed their water, and procured a supply of wine, sailed again on the 21st. While laying at Santa Cruz, fresh beef was served throughout the ship, and as a slight indication of scurvy was observed in some of the prisoners, a large quantity of vegetables and lemons was laid in for sea-store. The free use of fresh water was also permitted to wash the convict's clothes; an indulgence, the beneficial effects of which cannot be too highly valued. In voyages of this nature, where a great number of people are crowded together, to whom it is not always possible to permit such exercise as is necessary to health, cleanliness is the only preventative of disease; and, independent of any other necessity, it will always be eligible to put into any convenient port for that purpose alone.

It would appear, that the island of Teneriffe deserves the high character it has received for salubrity of climate. We attended the funeral of a native, who had lived 26 years beyond the common life of man, 'after which all is but labour and trouble.' His brother, who attended the funeral, was 94, and seemed to put his own mortal destiny at a distance. The thermometer stood between 70 and 72, a temperature, perhaps, more congenial to human life, than any other..... The water here has a soft, soapy taste, and I believe a slight purgative quality; it is conducted from the mountains to a stone fountain, which throws up three jets d'eau. The island produces a species of pine-tree, which is used in the construction of the houses, and in small vessels; we were here too early for the fruits of the island, which are those peculiar to the tropics. Vegetables were plenty, onions in particular are remarkably good; and as they are not to be procured at Rio de Janeiro, it is advisable to lay in a large stock of them here: fowls cost about half a crown each: sheep are scarce, and bad; and hogs neither cheap nor good. The only fish we saw, were large mackerel, vast shoals of which come into the bay at this season; they are caught with hook and line, and attracted towards the boats by fires of the dried pine, which give a bright blaze, and of a serene evening the bay presents the appearance of a magnificent marine illumination.

Between England and Teneriffe we lost four convicts by death; two of these had been embarked in the last stages of consumption, vainly hoping that a warmer climate might restore their health. From Teneriffe, we pursued our course towards the Cape Verde Islands, and on the 25th of May made the Isle of Sal, along which we coasted at the distance of six or seven miles, without seeing anything that could induce a stranger to land on it from choice; not a trace of cultivation, nor of inhabitants, was to be seen; nor did a single shrub enliven the dreary brown of the parched soil. This island has but few stationary inhabitants, but is frequented for the salt which is collected on it, with which it supplies America, and the West Indies. On the morning of the 26th, We stood close in for St. Jago, the largest of the Cape Verde Islands, and ranged along its S. E. fide at from one to two miles distance. This side of the island is broken, and uneven, in some places bound by projecting shelves of rock, the lower parts being excavated by the continual action of the water; in other spots are small sandy coves, defended by reefs on which the sea beats with violence. This island affords an agreeable prospect to the distressed mariner; the sides of the more gently ascending hills are covered with a verdant carpet, upon which numerous herds of cattle are seen grazing, and in the valleys are groves of cocoa-nuts and bananas surrounding the habitations of the natives. The harbour of Praya, laying on the south side of the island, is, during the regular N. E. trade-wind, perfectly secure, but it is exposed to the tornadoes, which in the months of August and September often blow from the southward: The natives appeared desirous of our landing, by waving their handkerchiefs on the rock as we passed along: hoping some of them might be induced to come on board with fruit, we stood close into the bay, but not a canoe was to be seen, and it was not an object of sufficient consequence, to suffer any delay by sending a boat on shore.

The town, from which we were distant about five miles, is the seat of government; to appearance it consists of a few wretched clay huts adjoining the fort, which alone is white-washed. A lucrative-trade is carried on from this island lo America and the West Indies in mules: by breeding these animals, and by supplying ships with refreshments, the inhabitants support themselves, The mother-country feels so little the importance of these islands, that scarce any precautions are taken for their defence: a Creole is often governor-general; and the inferior islands are sometimes governed by Mulattoes. A thick haze always obscures these islands, and prevents their being seen at the distance that might be expected from their altitudes: this, I suppose, proceeds from the exhalations arising from the Salt lakes, and this haze is much thicker and more opaque when the sun is in the Northern tropic.

From the Cape Verde Islands to the vicinity of the line, the N. E. tradewind continued to impel us forward with undeviating celerity. In this space, it is impossible not to mark, with emotions of pleasure, the beautiful atmospherical pictures which the evenings afford: in the direction of the setting sun, the Heavens are seen glowing with orange and purple, blended into the greatest variety of tints, and melting imperceptibly into the pure ether of light cerulean blue; in which, the first stars of evening shine with the most brilliant silvery lustre. The Northern tropical seas are the peculiar residence of the Dolphin, the Bonetta, the Albacore, the Skip-jack, and the Flying-fish; the latter is often seen winging its transient flight, to escape the swift pursuit of the dolphin, while the voracious shark waits its descent; when, exhausted by the want of moisture, its wings refuse to bear it aloft, and it falls helpless into his devouring jaws. The shark is the. hereditary foe of sailors; and the moment one is spied, the whole crew are instantly in arms; often, the day's allowance of meat is sacrificed to bait the hook intended to entrap their hungry adversary; while grains, harpoons, and every missive weapon, are pointed at his devoted head. When success attends their operations, and the deluded victim is dragged on board, no pack of hungry fox-hounds can be more restless, till they receive the reward ward of their labours, than the sailors to tear out the bowels, and examine the stomach of the shark. Here they often recover the pieces of meat used to bait the hooks, which his sagacity had extricated; and after cutting off his fins, saving his jaws as objects of curiosity, and reserving a few slices from the tail to eat, the carcase is again committed to the watery element.

In latitude 66 North, we lost the N. E. trade-wind, and for a few days experienced the usual equinoctial calms, and squalls, with heavy rains, and strong easterly currents. The line was crossed in the longitude of 250 W., with the usual visit from Mr. Neptune, his wife, and child. This ceremony, though ridiculous enough, is, when ably executed, sufficiently amusing: the ugliest persons in the ship are chosen to represent Neptune, and Amphitrite (but the latter name being rather too hard of pronunciation, is always familiarized into Mrs. Neptune); their faces are painted in the most ridiculous manner, and their heads are furnished with swabs well greased and powdered: Neptune's beard is of the same materials; while a pair of grains, or a boat-hook, serves him for a trident: a triumphal car is constructed with chairs fixed on a gun-carriage, a wheel-barrow, in which they are seated, and drawn from the forecastle to the quarter-deck, by a number of sailors representing Tritons. After enquiries respecting the ship's destination, saluting their old acquaintances, and making the Captain some ridiculous present, such as a dog or cat, under the name of a Canary-bird, they are again rolled forward, and the ceremony of shaving and ducking their new visitors commences. A large tub of salt water is prepared, with a stick across it, on which the visitor is seated; Neptune's barber, after lathering his face well, with a mixture of tar and grease, performs the operation of shaving with a piece of lusty iron hoop, and when clean scraped, which is not accomplished without many wry faces, he is pushed backwards into the tub, and kept there until completely soaked.

Our arrival at Rio de Janeiro was greatly retarded by the Ocean, whose rate of sailing was much inferior to the Calcutta's. We reached that Port the last day of June, and immediately commenced the necessary refittal of the ship, to enable her to encounter the long succession of stormy weather, which the season of the year taught us to expect in the remainder of our passage to New Holland. The small Island of Enchardos, about two miles from the town, was hired with permission of the Viceroy, for the purpose of repairing our water-casks, and landing the women to wash; a dilapidated monastery affording them and the marine guard a comfortable mansion.'. . . .

Quitting Rio Janeiro the 19th of July, with the wind at E. N. E. we shaped our course to the southward, in order to get into the region of westerly winds, which came on gradually till they fixed in, strong N. W. gales. It was now found impossible to keep company with the Ocean, without running under bare poles, which strained the ship violently, and we therefore parted company near the Islands of Tristan d'Acunha; the largest of which we made on the 2d of August, The preceding evening it had blown a heavy gale, with a mountainous sea; but as we approached the island, the wind moderated to a fine breeze, the billows subsided, and the clouds clearing away shewed the full-moon suspended in the clearest ether: by her friendly light, at about four o'clock we saw the Island, at six leagues distance. As the dawn arose, the horizon becoming hazy concealed it from our sight; but at sun-rise, the vapours again dispersing, left us a clear view of it till noon, when it was fourteen leagues distant. The effect which the sight of the smallest spot of land, or even a bare uninhabited rock, has in breaking the tedious monotony of a long sea voyage, is easier felt than described. After passing a long succession of weary hours, with no other objects of contemplation than a world of waters, bounded only by the extent of vision, where it unites with the .world of clouds, the sight of land acts, like a talisman, and instantaneously transports us into the fairy regions of imagination.

From Tristan d'Acunha a short run of eleven days brought us off the Cape of Good Hope, which we were in hopes of passing with a continuance of our favourable wind; in this, however, we were disappointed, as it suddenly veered to the S.E, and obliged us to run to the northward and make the land. Upon mature deliberation it was thought better, under these circumstances, to run into the Cape, than endanger the present high health of the ship's company and convicts, by keeping the sea in this stormy season; and we accordingly cast anchor in Simon's bay. Cape Town is one of the handsomest colonial towns in the world; the streets, which are wide and perfectly straight, are kept in the highest order, and planted with rows of oaks and firs. The houses are built in a stile of very superior elegance, and inside are in the cleanest and most regular order.

On Saturday, October 10th, we at last made King Island, in the entrance of Bass's Straits, which we had anxiously looked out for the two preceding days; the wind being from the N. E. obliged us to stand within three miles of the island, which through the haze we observed to be moderately high and level, with three sandy hills nearly in the centre. The increasing breeze and lowering sky, which portended a coming gale, prevented our examining the island more minutely. Fortunately we stood off in time to gain a sufficient offing before the gale commenced, which during the night blew a perfect hurricane. This night of danger and anxiety, was succeeded by morning beautifully serene, which shewed us the southern coast of New South Wales.

From the total want of information respecting the appearance of the land on this coast, we were doubtful as to our situation, and approached the shore with cautious diffidence; at length the break in the land, which forms the entrance of Port Philip, was observed, but a surf, apparently breaking across it , created, at first, some mistrust of its identity, until the man at the mast-head observing a ship at anchor within, which was soon recognized for the Ocean, removed all doubt, and without farther hesitation we pushed in for the entrance. A fair wind and tide soon carried us through; and in a few minutes we were presented with a picture highly contrasted with the scene we had lately contemplated: an expanse of water bounded in many places only by the horizon, and unruffled as the bosom of unpolluted innocence, presented itself to the charmed eye, which roamed over it in silent admiration. The nearer shores, along which the ship glided at the distance of a mile, afforded the most exquisite scenery, and recalled the idea of 'Nature in the world's first spring.' In short, every circumstance combined to impress our minds with the highest satisfaction

The week following our arrival at Port Phillip was occupied in searching for an eligible place to fix the settlement. As it was of the first consequence that this should be of easy access to shipping, the shores near the mouth of the port were first examined. Here, to our great mortification, we observed a total want of fresh water, and found the soil so extremely light and sandy as to deny all hopes of successful cultivation. As it was, however, determined to land the people, a small bay, eight miles from the harbour's mouth, was pitched upon for that purpose, where by sinking casks, water of a tolerable quality was procured, and here the camp was pitched; and on the l6ch of October, the marines and convicts were landed, while the ships immediately began to discharge their cargoes. On the first days of our landing, previous to the general debarkation, Capt. Woodriff, Colonel Collins, and the First Lieutenant of the Calcutta had some interviews with the natives, who came to the boats entirely unarmed, and without the smallest symptom of apprehension; presents of blankets, biscuit, etc. were given to them, with which, except in one instance, they departed satisfied and inoffensive. The wash streak of the boat striking one of their fancies, he seized it and threw it behind the bushes; to shew him the impropriety of this, the blankets which had before been given them were taken away, and they were made to understand, that they would not be restored until the board was brought back by him who conveyed it away: this, after some delay and much reluctance, was at last done.

Several convicts absconded from the camp soon after their landing, led away by the most delusive ideas of reaching Port Jackson, or getting on board some whaler, which they ignorantly believed occasionally touched on this coast; some of them were brought back by parties sent after them, and others returned voluntarily, when nearly famished with hunger. Two only of these unfortunate beings were never heard of after leaving the camp, one of these was George Lee, a character well known to several persons of respectability in England. After the Calcutta quitted Port Philip, a vessel was sent to examine Port Dalrymple; the accounts brought back not being so favourable as was hoped for, it was finally determined to remove the Colony to the river Derwent, which was partly accomplished before the Calcutta sailed from Port Jackson. The name of Hobart was given to the Settlement, and the most flattering accounts were received from the Lieutenant Governor, of, the situation, soil, and climate. Speaking of the climate, he says, that it may be considered the Montpelier of New South Wales.

The remainder of the Calcutta's voyage was almost totally barren of incident, either to amuse or instruct. She sailed from Port Philip the 18th of December, and passing through Bass's Straits, without experiencing any difficulties, arrived at Port Jackson the 26th. Here she took in a cargo of ship-timber (about six hundred logs) and sailed again on the 17th March 1804; passed to the southward of New Zealand, which was seen on the 29th; doubled Cape Horn on the 27th April, and arrived at Rio de Janeiro the 22d May; thus accomplishing a voyage round the world, discharging and receiving a cargo, in eleven, months. In the long navigation between New Zealand and Cape Horn, scarce a single incident occurred either to interest the seaman, or the naturalist. Throughout this navigation, the wind seldom deviated to the northward of N. W. or to the southward of S. W. with strong gales, 'which enabled us to make an average of one hundred and eighty miles a-day of twenty-nine days. The variety and numbers of austral oceanic birds, which followed our track, was very great; and it was remarked, that they were seen in greatest numbers during stormy weather. It is probable that the winds at those times disturbing the waters to their utmost depths, may bring blubbers and other substances, upon which these birds feed, to the surface

Lieutenant Tuckey was highly regarded. Lieutenant Governor Collins transmitted to the First Lord of the Admiralty a most flattering testimony of his merits and he was furnished by Collins with letters of recommendation to Sir Joseph Banks.[1] On his death twelve years later Lieutenant Tuckey was described as being at all times gentle and kind in his manners and indulgent to every one placed under his command. His Commander in reporting his death in the Congo wrote of him 'in him the navy has lost an ornament and its seamen a father'[2].

The Convicts

In his Account of the Voyage to Australia, Lieutenant Tuckey made certain observations regarding the convicts -

Observations respecting the selection of convicts for transportation, and on the means of preserving health on the voyage..........

Upon the proper selection of convicts to be transported to a new colony, its improvement must almost totally depend. The advice of Lord Bacon upon this subject is worthy of attention. The people wherewith you plant,'says his Lordship, in his essay 'on Plantations,' ought to be gardeners, ploughmen, labourers, smiths, carpenters, joiners, fishermen, fowlers, with some few apothecaries, surgeons, cooks, and bakers.'

How little such a selection is attended to in the transportation of convicts to New South Wales, was sufficiently exemplified on board the Calcutta, where, out of three hundred and seven convicts, there were but eight carpenters and joiners, three smiths, one gardener, twenty labouring farmers, two fishermen, nine taylors, and four stone-masons. The remainder may be classed under the heads of gentlemen's servants, hair-dressers, hackney-coachmen, chairmen, silk-weavers, calico-printers, watch-makers, lapidaries, merchant's clerks, and gentlemen. It requires no argument to demonstrate the little use such trades are in an infant colony, where agriculture is the chief pursuit, and where manual labour is infinitely more necessary than ingenuity. It is true a watch-maker deals in metals as well as the smith, but we doubt whether, with all his exertions, he could make a hundred nails in a day.

With respect to gentlemen convicts, they are worse than useless, for they are invariably troublesome, as the present government of New South Wales can sufficiently attest. The education and the manners of such people will in most Instances, prevent their being employed in manual labour; they will always find advocates in the feelings of those who hold the rank which they once held, and this will prevent their being confounded with the common herd of convicted felons : but, although by their crimes they have lost the reality of their original rank, the shadow of it remains, together with a portion of the feelings which constituted their former character; hence they contemplate their degradation with impatience bordering on phrenzy; they are guilty of indiscretions (particularly in language) which must create continual disturbance to an administration, where coercion is the only engine of government, and where consequently jealousy is continually on the watch to anticipate insurrection..

The method of selecting the convicts sent out in the Calcutta might certainly be improved. A list of four hundred convicts was sent to the surgeon of that ship, from which he was to choose three hundred. In this selection, he, of course, regarded merely health and age, for he was to receive 10 pounds for every convict landed in health in New South Wales. Of their characters he could have no knowledge, and he had no instructions respecting peculiar trades, in preference to others. The dreadful mortality which has, in several instances, taken place among the convicts on board transports going to New South Wales, must proceed chiefly from a want of attention to cleanliness, both in the persons of the convicts and the ship herself; for, in every instance where proper precautions were taken, no such mortality has taken place. The convicts, in general, being equally indolent and careless, as well as unused to a ship, will in many instances be found so negligent of themselves, that severity is sometimes necessary to prevent their becoming the most disgusting objects from vermin and dirt. In passing through the warm latitudes in particular, the most rigid attention to cleanliness can alone prevent disease and the following precautions, if strictly followed, will, as far as it is in the power of man, prevent the admission of sickness, or effectually check its progress, in the most crowded ship.

When the prison is on the orlop deck, where the air has but a scanty admission, it should never be wetted, the dirt should be scraped off every morning, and the deck afterwards scrubbed with bibles* and dry sand. Every part of the prison should be clean, so that no receptacle for bones or other filth could be found; and should it be necessary to stow any articles whatever in the prison, the space they occupy ought to be bulkheaded round. Particular care is requisite that no wet cloaths are hung up or left about the prison. Every convict should be supplied with a hammock**, a very thin mattress, and one blanket; care must be taken that every man hangs his hammock up in his proper birth, else laziness will induce the greater number to spread it on the deck even in the wet; in dry weather the beds should be aired as often as possible, (if every day the better,) and the hammock scrubbed once a month. If the ship touches at Teneriffe or Madeira, or if not, after she has passed those islands, the beds, blankets, jackets, stockings, shoes, and every kind of woollen clothing, should be taken from the convicts, else, from the total want of fore-thought, the greater part of them will be lost, before they again feel the want of them in the high southern latitudes. The flocks in the beds should be taken out, and, after being exposed to the sun, remade; all the woollen-clothing well-washed (if the ship touches at the islands, in fresh water, if not, in salt), and afterwards dipped in lime-water, and dried without wringing. The fumigations, by means of devils composed of wetted gun-powder, are perhaps often carried to too great an excess, and, in fact, this kind of fumigation is liable to many and great objections, particularly in cold or wet weather, when it is most commonly practised; the cold air, rushing into the fumigated apartments when opened, immediately condenses the vapour that remains, and leaves a degree of dampness that must be unwholesome.

In wet weather it is impossible to let a sufficient quantity of air into the apartment after fumigation, without, at the same time, admitting a proportionate quantity of moisture; hence the people often return to it before the vapour is evaporated, and inhale a considerable quantity, which must affect the lungs. In all weathers, fires of sea-coal (for charcoal is liable to the same objections as fumigations with gun-powder) will be found infinitely more effectual in clearing the prisons of foul air, than any kind of fumigation. As to fumigation by acids, it is usually performed on so small a scale, that I cannot conceive it productive of any advantages, if any such are inherent in it. In passing through the warm latitudes, I would strongly recommend, that the convicts be obliged to bathe, at least, twice a week. This might be so regulated as to give but little trouble, a certain proportion bathing every day, and if performed formed under the superintendence of a medical man, no danger could arise from it. In short, it will be found, that wholesome diet, sufficient exercise, and proper attention to cleanliness, are the most effectual preventives of disease on long voyages. The first, the Government of England supplies with a liberality peculiar to itself; but the two latter must be left to the care of the person to whom the charge of so many of his fellow-creatures is entrusted

* These are blocks of wood a foot long, and six inches deep and wide.

** This was done on board the Glatton and Calcutta, but on board hired transports fixed bed-places are usually erected for the convicts, from which it is probable their bed-things are never removed while they are on board.

Notes and Links

1). CAPTAIN DANIEL WOODRIFF was a British naval officer who first came to Australia in 1792 in command of the small convict and supply ship Kitty.

Select here to find out more about Captain Daniel Woodriff and the capture of the Calcutta by the French in 1805. The Calcutta was destroyed in 1809 at the Battle of the Basque Roads.

Extract of a Letter from an Officer belonging to the Experiment, Botany Bay ship (last from China), dated Falmouth 6th October 1805 describing the gallantry of Captain Woodrif. - Naval Chronicle

2). FREDERICK EDWARD VERNON HARCOURT was born in 1790 , fourth son of Right Hon. Edward Harcourt, Archbishop of York, Primate of England and Lord High Almoner to the Queen by Anne, third daughter of Granville, first Marquess of Stafford. Harcourt entered the Navy in February 1803 as Midshipman on board the Calcutta. On his return from the voyage around the world in the Calcutta he joined in July 1804 the Latona (Naval Biographical Dictionary)

3). NICHOLAS LECHMERE PATESHALL Esq. was the fourth son of Edmund Pateshall, of Allensmore, co. Hereford, Esq. He first embarked in Aug. 1795, and served the whole of his time as a midshipman, under Sir Edward Pellew, Viscount Exmouth, in the Indefatigable frigate, and Impetueux of 80 guns. In Aug. 1801, Mr. Pateshall received an order to act as lieutenant of the Ville de Paris 110, flag-ship of the Hon. William Cornwallis, which appointment was confirmed by the Admiralty, Nov. 20 following. In 1803 and 1804, he circumnavigated the globe, in the Calcutta 50, Captain Daniel Woodriff*. On his return from that interesting voyage, he again joined the Ville de Paris, and continued in her until Admiral Cornwallis resigned the command of the Channel fleet, in June 1806. He was then appointed to the Kent 74, Captain Thomas Rogers, under whom he served as first lieutenant for a period of four years. The Kent accompanied Earl St. Vincent to Lisbon, in the summer of 1806; and was afterwards sent to the Mediterranean, where her boats captured, at different times, upwards of 30 merchant vessels and small cruisers (including a Turkish corvette), and spiked the guns of many batteries principally in the Gulf of Genoa. He subsequently proceeded to Jamaica, where he was made commander, July 24, 1811, and successively appointed to the Shark sloop, Reindeer brig, and Polyphemus 64. On the 7th Oct. 1813, he obtained the command of the Adder, a new 12-gun brig, fitting at Portsmouth, in which vessel he was employed for a short time on the north coast of Spain, and afterwards sent to the Halifax station; where he received an appointment to the Jaseur 16, dated June 7, 1814. His promotion to post rank took place Feb. 18,1815, after which he commanded the Carron 20, on the coast of America, in the West Indies, at Bermuda, and Newfoundland. He was put out of commission at Portsmouth, in Aug. 1816.
Royal Naval Biography; Or, Memoirs of the Services of All the Flag-officers ... By John Marshall. Nicholas Pateshall kept an account on the voyage of the Calcutta. -

State Library of Victoria Catalogue....A short account of a voyage round the globe in H.M.S. Calcutta 1803-1804 / Nicholas Pateshall ; edited with an introduction by Marjorie Tipping. Nicholas Pateshall

4). Edward Foord Bromley also served as surgeon superintendent on the convict ships Ocean in 1816, Almorah in 1817, Lord Wellington in 1820, Surry in 1833 and the Numa in 1834.

5). James Grove arrived as a convict on the Calcutta

6). Scottish prisoners included Timothy Hurley, Archibald Campbell, Adam Carmichael and Robert Hay James Colven.

7). John Pascoe Fawkner was eleven years old when he arrived free on the Calcutta with his mother and father John Fawkner who arrived as a convict on the Calcutta. John Pascoe Fawkner junior was severely punished in 1814......The Sydney Gazette dated 16 July 1814 reported the following incident....Escaped in a boat - Antonio Martinio, Fortesco De Santo, Patrick McCabe, Visanso Bouchute, Antonio Janio, Montrose Johnson, William Green and John Faulkner junior, a free man, who aided and assisted the said persons in making their escape and also accompanied them. John Fawkner junior and Fortesco de Santo were sentenced to three years at Newcastle penal settlement. Fortesco de Santo became one of the earliest recorded boat builders at Newcastle penal settlement.

8). Reminiscences of Early Hobart Town by J.P. Fawkner

9). George Lee mentioned above as one of the two escapees who was never heard from again, was tried at the Worcester Assizes on 6th March 1802. He was sentenced to 14 years transportation for having in his possession a forged bank note. (Jackson's Oxford Journal 13 March 1802)

10). The other convict who escaped was William Buckley who was tried at Sussex on 2nd August 1802. He lived with the Wathaurang tribe and was not heard of again in the colony until 1835. Below is an extract from The Life and Adventures of William Buckley by John Morgan in which he describes his circumstances on board the Calcutta.......

I was born in the year 1780, at Macclesfield, in the County of Cheshire, England. My parents were humble people, who honestly provided for the support of themselves, and a family of two girls and two boys, by cultivating a small farm in that neighbourhood. What has become of my brother and sisters, is not known to me; but a short time since I heard the former was still living at Middlewitch, also a town in Cheshire, and celebrated for its salt works.

The wandering, extraordinary life I have led, has naturally obliterated from my memory, many of the earlier scenes of my childhood; but few presenting themselves before me occasionally at this period, and those only as a dream. The following are however still vivid to my mind. I remember, that from some circumstance or other, I was adopted by my mother's father, and that I was sent by him to an evening school, where I was taught to read; and that when about fifteen years of age, I was apprenticed by the same good old man to a Mr. Robert Wyatt, a Bricklayer, residing in that neighbourhood, to be taught the art and mystery of building houses for other people to live in it being my fate, as will presently be seen, during thirty-two years, to inhabit dwellings of a very different description, having for their roofs only the wide spread of Heaven.

Having been removed in the first instance from the immediate charge of my parents, I was, I suppose, not so strictly treated by the old people as I should have been, as a boy, and hence the restraints imposed upon me by my master, and his very proper endeavours to make me useful and industrious, were considered hardships and punishments, unnecessarily and improperly inflicted. This feeling, in time, completely unsettled me, and my uncontrolled discontent mastering my boyish reason, when I was about nine teen, I determined to enlist as a soldier, and to win glorious laurels in the battle-field, taking my chances of becoming either a corporal, or a colonel, I cared not which; neither did I very well understand the difference between the two positions, or the career of dangers, trials, and sufferings, upon which I was entering. Acting upon these impulses, I enlisted in the Cheshire Militia, receiving ten guineas as a bounty, which sum I thought would prove inexhaustible; but, at the end of about a year, I took another bounty, having volunteered into the Fourth, or King's own Regiment of Foot, then laying at Horsham Barracks.

The Regiment was commanded by a Lieutenant-Colonel Dixon, a very excellent officer, and in about six weeks after joining, we were ordered to embark for Holland, where His Royal Highness the Duke of York, at the head of the British army, was endeavouring to sustain himself against the French Republican forces. My Regiment was in the division commanded by the late Lieutenant-General the Earl of Chatham.

It is not the purpose of this narrative, to refer particularly to that period of my life, neither shall I attempt to give the details of the campaigns in Holland: suffice it to say, that in a battle fought in that country, our regiment suffered heavily, and that I was wounded, rather severely, in the right hand. Almost immediately after this action, the Fourth, with other corps, embarked for England, and were landed at Chatham, where we lay some time. Here I received another bounty for extended service, having now been about four years a soldier, and by attention to my duty, and general steadiness of conduct, having acquired the good opinion of my officers. Perhaps my unusual height, six feet five, may also have predisposed them in my favour.

It would have been well had I continued in the same line of rectitude, but my imperfect education, and early feelings of discontent returning upon me, I unfortunately became associated with several men of bad character in the Regiment, who gradually acquired an influence over my conduct, which very soon led me into scenes of irregularity, and riotous dissipation. At length, after a six weeks' furlough, during which I visited my friends in Cheshire, I was apprehended, as being implicated with those men in an offence which rendered me liable to punishment. The consequence was, that I was tried at Chatham, and found guilty, but as the laws were strangely administered in those days, where soldiers and sailors were concerned, I do not know to this hour the precise character, or extent of my sentence. This may appear strange, but the reader will remember, that transportation, as a punishment on any regular or fixed system, had then scarcely been thought of, and, that soldiers and sailors were dealt with more at the pleasure of the Chief Military, and Naval Authorities, than by Judges or Justices, many of whom considered the army and navy outside the pale of their protection. With this sentence, whatever it was, ceased my connection with my family, and I have never since heard of either, or any of them, excepting as I have already said, that my brother was supposed, a short time since, to be still living at Middlewitch.

My fortune had now changed. I was a prisoner, working at the new fortifications being thrown up for the defence of Woolwich. In about six months, however, a new light broke out over my unhappy existence, and an opportunity was afforded me of ultimately retrieving my character, and acquiring freedom: this was by the determination of the British Government to found a penal settlement at Port Phillip, on the south-eastern coast of New Holland; that part known as New South Wales being the only portion of the Continent then occupied. Being a mechanic, I, with others, was selected and placed on board His Majesty's ship Calcutta, Captain Woodriff. Lieutenant-Colonel Collins, of the Royal Marines, was appointed Governor, and he accompanied the expedition, having with him in the same ship, several officers and a detachment of his corps, as a guard over the prisoners during the voyage, and after their landing.

The treatment I received on the passage was very good, and, as I endeavoured to make myself useful on board, I was permitted to be the greater part of my time on deck, assisting the crew in working the ship. In justice to the officers placed over us, I must say, the treatment all the prisoners received at their hands, was as far from suffering, as could be expected, at a time when prison discipline was generally carried out by coercion, and the lash and the rope were, in too many instances, considered too good for all who had been convicted. To amend and reclaim, to bring back to society, and to administer hope and consolation, were, in those days, considered the encouragement of mutiny, and hence, to be permitted to live without additional sentences, and summary punishments, was looked upon as mercy. At length our voyage was at an end, and the Calcutta came to an anchor within the Heads, at about two miles from what is now known as Point Lonsdale

11). Oliver Smith - At the adjourned city sessions, on Wednesday last, Oliver Smith was sentenced to seven years transportation for stealing a box of shawls from off a cart belonging to Messrs. March - Bury and Norwich Post 28 January 1801.

12). James Hingston Tuckey R.N., - Memoirs of Hydrography

13) Report on the State of the Convicts in Portsmouth Harbour in 1802.

14). Resources used to create Convict Ships pages


[1]. An Account of a Voyage to Establish a Colony at Port Philip in Bass's Strait ... By James Hingston Tuckey

[2] Memoirs of Hydrography: Including Brief Biographies of the Officers who served in HM Naval Surveying Service

[3] HR NSW., Vol. 5, p. 247.