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Author David Hill brings to life the voyage of the Lady Penrhyn and the early months of settlement at Port Jackson (modern-day Sydney). Hill draws on First Fleet surgeon Arthur Bowes Smyth's journal which describes his two-and-a-half year journey from Portsmouth in England to the new colony in Australia and back.
As surgeon to more than 100 convict women on the Lady Penrhyn, Bowes Smyth gives an insight into the plight of these women and their children. Their voyage was marked by seasickness, miscarriage, infant deaths, a diet of salted meat and dry hardtack biscuits, and cruel punishment and, when they finally set foot on Australian soil, their travails did not end. There are descriptions of medical incidents that would make a modern reader squirm, and moments of high drama when mountainous seas threatened to overturn the ship or when passengers fell overboard. Once in the new colony, Bowes Smyth details early encounters with Aboriginal people and how the new colony struggled with food shortages, outbreaks of disease and crop failures. He also describes the promiscuity and lax morals of the convicts with typical flair, declaring their audacity 'not to be equalled amongst a set of villains in any other part of the globe'.
Each chapter is richly illustrated and includes a page of Bowes Smyth's handwritten diary entries, accompanied by a full transcript.
David Hill is the author of the Australian bestsellers, 'The Great Race', 'The Gold Rush', '1788' and 'The Forgotten Children'. Like Arthur Bowes Smyth, Hill sailed to Australia from England, albeit under the very different circumstances of the Fairbridge child migrant scheme. He has been managing director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, chairman of the Australian Football Association and a Fellow of the Sydney University Senate. He is now manager of an archaeological study of Troizen, an ancient Greek city.