First Fleet

Activity 5: The voyage

Focus question: what would it have been like to travel on one of the ships of the First Fleet?

  • Using Reconstructing the voyage (PDF, 89 KB), students investigate how the First Fleet travelled to Australia from England and how long the journey took.
The front cover of Marcus Clarke's books For the Term of His Natural Life. The cover image shows tall ships coming into harbour. Marcus Clarke's classic novel about
convict life, For the Term of His Natural Life.
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  • Students reconstruct the size of some First Fleet
    passenger ships using information from Ships of the First Fleet. Students mark the ships' dimensions outdoors to visualise the scale. Ask:
    How much space would have been available to
    each person on board?
    What do we need to know to work this out?
    Students reflect on what this suggests about conditions
    on board.
  • Using For the term of his natural life (PDF, 175 KB), students investigate a literary description of conditions on board a convict transport. (The language in the extract is demanding and this activity may need to be teacher-led or used as an extension activity.)
  • Using Convict voyages (PDF, 132 KB) and Daily routine (PDF, 156 KB), students examine two more sources about conditions on board ship for transported convicts.

Students may also like to explore Google Earth's animation of the weather conditions for the First Fleet voyage 


  • Can students compare and contrast evidence from
    different sources?
  • Can students accurately and perceptively describe an experience from various points of view?