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On May 13, 1787, a group of about 1,400 people in 11 ships set sail from Portsmouth, England. Their destination was a vaguely described bay in the continent of Australia, newly discovered to Europeans. In a stunning feat of planning and navigation, nearly all of the voyagers survived and arrived in Botany Bay about a year later. Here, they established the first European settlement in Australia.
 
A wide variety of people made up this legendary “First Fleet.” Military and government officials, along with their wives and children, led the group. Sailors, cooks, masons, and other workers hoped to establish new lives in the new colony
 
Perhaps most famously, the First Fleet included more than 700 convicts. The settlement at Botany Bay was intended to be a penal colony. The convicts of the First Fleet included both men and women. Most were British, but a few were American, French, and even African. Their crimes ranged from theft to assault. Most convicts were sentenced to seven years’ “transportation” (the term for the sending of prisoners to a usually far-off penal colony). 
 
The First Fleet departed from Portsmouth, then briefly docked in the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. The ships then crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where they took on huge stores of food and freshwater. Then the fleet sailed back across the Atlantic to Cape Town, South Africa, where they took on even more food, including livestock. The main portion of the journey was across the entire Indian Ocean, from Cape Town to Botany Bay—24,000 kilometers (15,000 miles).
 
Botany Bay was not as hospitable as the group had hoped. The bay was shallow, there was not a large supply of freshwater, and the land was not fertile. Nearby, however, officers of the First Fleet discovered a beautiful harbor with all those qualities. They named it after the British Home Secretary, Lord Sydney. The day the First Fleet discovered Sydney Harbor is celebrated as Australia’s national holiday, Australia Day.
Noun

body of water partially surrounded by land, usually with a wide mouth to a larger body of water.

cargo
Noun

goods carried by a ship, plane, or other vehicle.

celebrate
Verb

to observe or mark an important event with public and private ceremonies or festivities.

Noun

edge of land along the sea or other large body of water.

colony
Noun

people and land separated by distance or culture from the government that controls them.

Noun

one of the seven main land masses on Earth.

convict
Noun

prisoner or person who has been convicted of a crime.

destination
Noun

place where a person or thing is going.

dock
Verb

to bring and secure a ship or boat to a space or facility.

establish
Verb

to form or officially organize.

feat
Noun

accomplishment or achievement.

fertile
Adjective

able to produce crops or sustain agriculture.

fleet
Noun

group of ships, usually organized for military purposes.

government
Noun

system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

Noun

part of a body of water deep enough for ships to dock.

holiday
Noun

period of celebration or honor.

hospitable
Adjective

welcoming or inviting.

legendary
Adjective

famous, heroic, or celebrated.

livestock
noun, plural noun

animals raised for sale and profit.

military
Noun

armed forces.

Noun

art and science of determining an object's position, course, and distance traveled.

penal
Adjective

having to do with prison or punishment.

portion
Noun

part of a whole.

route
Noun

path or way.

settlement
Noun

community or village.

survive
Verb

to live.

vague
Adjective

unclear.

voyage
Noun

long journey or trip.

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