Wet Foot, Dry Foot

One thousand three hundred and seventy three men and women were a very long way from Portsmouth. All eleven ships were in the harbor now, the last two just rounding the southern point. Every passenger leaned over the rails and eyed the sparkling dunes that gently rose into thick forest, broken only by a rocky stream of fresh water that spilled carelessly into the cove. The sight was stunning. Paradise. Fifteen thousand miles were behind them and all that was left was the short trip to the welcoming beach. The HMS Supply was lowering her small boats as she was the first in and had already been at anchor for a few hours.

In the first launch, the ranking officer was directing the crew as to their duties. “Mr. Alt, I think you already know you’ll be setting up your first survey at the mouth of the stream. Bloodworth, you carry these bins – and no lip – I want it done orderly. And you … James is it? Get yourself up to the bow here and give a hand.”

As the water became shallow and the keel lurched across bars of sand, the oars were raised and James followed orders and slipped over the side. The water was about knee-deep and little fish tickled his ankles as his toes sunk into the soft bottom. It didn’t take long before 165 pounds of cargo was secured on his back and he was duck-walking his way to shore.

Right before the convict James Ruse’s feet hit dry land, he dropped to his knees. He wasn’t giving thanks for having made the arduous journey; he was letting the man off of his back. Lieutenant George Johnston hopped down, became the first officer ashore and claimed Australia for King George III on January 26th, 1788.

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