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The Road to Botany Bay

The overland route between Sydney Cove and the Laperouse encampment at Botany Bay January- March 1788 (Notes prepared by John Langford, one time Heritage Officer of the Randwick and District Historical Society Inc.)

Did this route follow an Aboriginal Track?

In 1988 Randwick and District Historical Society, Inc. published “The Road to Botany Bay: the story of Frenchmans Road, Randwick through the journals of Laperouse and the First Fleet”

The following observations and conclusions are made on reading the Society’s publication.

According to the journals of several Officers of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove, a number of convicts were the first to walk overland to the French encampment at Botany Bay. The convicts sought to escape from the British as crew on the French ships but their entreaties were rejected.

The first official overland journey was made by British personnel, being Philip Gidley King, Ball and others, on 4th February 1788. King described the country between Port Jackson and Botany Bay “ to consist chiefly of deep bays and sand hills, interspersed with a vast number of rocks.”

On 9th February Arthur Phillip, George Worgan and others made an overland walk to visit the French at Botany Bay. Worgan wrote that “Our Gentlemen met with a good deal of swampy, Rocky Ground in their Journey…”

John Hunter and others sailed to Botany Bay and returned by land with some Frenchmen on 26-28th February. Hunter recorded in his journal that, due to poor weather it had been decided to return to Sydney Cove by land. He wrote that he and the others “… traveled through the woods and swamps of which there were many in our route. We directed our course by a pocket compass, which led us within a mile of our own encampment; ….”

There is nothing within the reports of the above mentioned British officers indicating the existence of an Aboriginal route or that guidance was sought from Aborigines between January and March, 1788. Whether any Aborigines were met en route is not recorded. Moreover, the varying descriptions of the terrain encountered suggest that each party took a different path. Had visible native tracks existed it is likely that swamps and other impediments referred to in the journals could have been avoided

The writing of William Bradley records that on 17th February three Frenchmen who had walked to Sydney Cove “… met with but few of the natives…”. Bradley also recorded that the French had fired at Botany Bay natives who were trying to steal property.

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