In 1788 Watkin Tench stepped ashore at Botany Bay with the First Fleet. This curious young captain of the marines was an effortless storyteller. His account of the infant colony, introduced by Tim Flannery, is the first classic of Australian literature.
On leaving England, Tench was commissioned by the publisher John Debrett of Piccadilly to write a book about his adventures. In fact he wrote two. A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay was published in 1789, and A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson in 1793. They are both included in full in this edition of 1788.Watkin Tench was born around 1758 in Chester, England. He joined the marine corps in 1776 and served in the American War of Independence before sailing to Botany Bay with the First Fleet. Tench returned to England in 1792. He stayed with the marine corps before retiring as a lieutenant-general in 1821. Tench died in 1833.
Tim Flannery is a bestselling writer, scientist and explorer. He has published over a dozen books, most recently Among the Islands: Adventures in the Pacific. In 2011 he was appointed chief commissioner of the Australian Climate Commission.
'Tench will always remain the classic contemporary witness of our beginnings.' Les Murray
'Don't for a minute believe that Australian history is a bore. This is a marvellous read.' Sun Herald
'Tench's work is a stunning time machine: he takes us back to the promise and disaster at the beginning of our nation's story; and we stand at the edge of history, laughing and crying.' Chloe Hooper
'Tench is a most charming man of the Enlightenment, and his journal is similarly by far the most disarming and enthusiastic of the First Fleet journals. Where others damned the place, he showed curiosity.' Thomas Keneally
'I fell in love with Tench, as most of his readers do. He is a Boswell on the page: curious, ardent, gleefully self-mocking. He didn't fit my image of a stiff-lipped British imperialist at all.' Inga Clendinnen
'His record sparkles with precision, each word so apt.' Marcia Langton
The embarked in the fleet which sailed to found the establishment at Botany Bay. He shortly after published a Narrative of the Proceedings and State of the Colony, brought up to the beginning of July, 1788, which was well received, and passed through three editions. This could not but inspire both confidence and gratitude; but gratitude, would be badly manifested were he on the presumption of former favour to lay claim to present indulgence. He resumes the subject in the humble hope of communicating information, and increasing knowledge, of the country, which he describes.
He resided at Port Jackson nearly four years: from the 20th of January, 1788, until the 18th of December, 1791. To an active and contemplative mind, a new country is an inexhaustible source of curiosity and speculation. It was the author's custom not only to note daily occurrences, and to inspect and record the progression of improvement; but also, when not prevented by military duties, to penetrate the surrounding country in different directions, in order to examine its nature, and ascertain its relative geographical situations.
The greatest part of the work is inevitably composed of those materials which a journal supplies; but wherever reflections could be introduced without fastidiousness and parade, he has not scrupled to indulge them, in common with every other deviation which the strictness of narrative would allow.
When this publication was nearly ready for the press; and when many of the opinions which it records had been declared, fresh accounts from Port Jackson were received. To the state of a country, where so many anxious trying hours of his life have passed, the author cannot feel indifferent. If by any sudden revolution of the laws of nature; or by any fortunate discovery of those on the spot, it has really become that fertile and prosperous land, which some represent it to be, he begs permission to add his voice to the general congratulation. He rejoices at its success: but it is only justice to himself and those with whom he acted to declare, that they feel no cause of reproach that so complete and happy an alteration did not take place at an earlier period.
As this publication enters the world with the name of the author, candour will, he trusts, induce its readers to believe, that no consideration could weigh with him in an endeavour to mislead them. Facts are related simply as they happened, and when opinions are hazarded, they are such as, he hopes, patient inquiry, and deliberate decision, will be found to have authorised. For the most part he has spoken from actual observation; and in those places where the relations of others have been unavoidably adopted. He has been careful to search for the truth, and repress that spirit of exaggeration which is almost ever the effect of novelty on ignorance.
The nautical part of the work is comprized in as few pages as possible. By the professional part of my readers this will be deemed judicious; and the rest will not, I believe, be dissatisfied at its brevity. I beg leave, however, to say of the astronomical calculations, that they may be depended on with the greatest degree of security, as they were communicated by an officer, who was furnished with instruments, and commissioned by the Board of Longitude, to make observations during the voyage, and in the southern hemisphere.
An unpractised writer is generally anxious to bespeak public attention, and to solicit public indulgence. Except on professional subjects, military men are, perhaps, too fearful of critical censure. For the present narrative no other apology is attempted, than the intentions of its author, who has endeavoured not only to satisfy present curiosity, but to point out to future adventurers, the favourable, as well as adverse circumstances which will attend their settling here. The candid, it is hoped, will overlook the inaccuracies of this imperfect sketch, drawn amidst the complicated duties of the service in which the Author is engaged, and make due allowance for the want of opportunity of gaining more extensive information.