How Did Botany Bay Become Famous?
On 29 April 1770, Botany Bay was the site of James Cook’s first landing of HMS Endeavour on the land mass of Australia, after his extensive navigation of New Zealand. Botany Bay became famous as the place in Australia to which English convicts were transported after Captain James Cook had taken possession of the continent for Britain in 1770.
Cook sailed up to Botany Bay, near the site of the present city of Sydney, and named the continent New South Wales, because he thought its coastline resembled that of South Wales, Botany Bay was so called by Joseph Banks, a botanist in Cook’s expedition, because of the bay’s rich plant life.
Until then Britain had transported most of her convicts to work on the American Plantations. But when the North American colonies gained their independence in 1782, British planned Botany Bay as the site for a penal colony; it was decided to send the convicts to Australia, chiefly because of the great distance.
Out of these plans came the first European habitation of Australia at Sydney Cove. Although the penal settlement was almost immediately shifted to Sydney Cove, for some time in Britain transportation to “Botany Bay” was a metonym for transportation to any of the Australian penal settlements.
In January, 1788, a fleet of nine transports carrying 828 convicts, of whom 300 were women, and escorted by two warships, arrived in Botany Bay. Captain Arthur Philip (1738-1814) who was in charge of the expedition and was appointed governor, established a settlement which he called Sidney, after Lord Sidney 1733-1800) who was British Colonial Secretary.
The colony became a dumping ground for the rejects of Britain but many of those transported were guilty only of small offenses. Some free men also settled there, and the convicts worked as unpaid servants to the officials and free settlers. Even when they had served their sentences, most preferred to remain in Australia, where they were given grants of land, and helped to build a colony.
Botany Bay, an open oceanic embayment, has its source in the confluence of the Georges River at Taren Point and the Cooks River at Kyeemagh and flows 10 km (6 mi) to the east before meeting its mouth, the Tasman Sea, midpoint between La Perouse and Kurnell.
The total catchment area of the bay is approximately 55 km2 (21 sq mi). Despite its relative shallowness, the bay serves as greater metropolitan Sydney’s main cargo seaport, located at Port Botany, with facilities managed by Sydney Ports Corporation. Two runways of Sydney Airport extend into the bay.
Botany Bay National Park is located on the northern and southern headlands of the bay. The area surrounding the bay is generally managed by Roads and Maritime Services. The land adjacent to Botany Bay was settled for many thousands of years by the Tharawal and Eora Aboriginal peoples and their associated clans.