The HMS Sirius was the guardian or Flag Ship of the First Fleet during its 15 000 mile, six month journey from England to Australia in 1787-1788. The arrival of the HMS Sirius and the first fleet at Port Jackson 26 January 1788 is one of the most important moments in Australia's history and is celebrated each year as Australia Day.
Following its journey the Sirius became the main form of defence for the colony of New South Wales and their primary supply line and communication link with Great Britain. By February 1790 the shortage of supplies at Port Jackson was critical and the settlement was in danger of collapse and abandonment.
To avert disaster Governor Philip dispatched the Sirius and the HMS Supply to Norfolk Island with convicts and Royal Marines in the hope that the conditions on the island would be more conducive to self sufficiency and relieve pressure on the remaining government supplies.
The Sirius was then to proceed to China to purchase desperately needed supplies for the colony. The HMS Sirius sank on 19 March 1790. The loss of the Sirius was a disaster to the fledging colony as it happened during a period of crisis when the settlement at Port Jackson was in danger of starvation and abandonment. In spite of the loss of the Sirius the decision by Governor Phillip to move soldiers and convicts to Norfolk Island proved correct and ensured the colony's survival until further supplies arrived from England.
The careers of the first three governors' of the colony of New South Wales are closely associated with the Sirius. Governors Phillip (1788-1792), Hunter (1795-1800) and King (1800-1806) all sailed as senior officers on the Sirius.
The shipwreck site and its associated relics have been protected from damage or disturbance under the Commonwealth Historic Shipwreck Act 1976 since 1984. The shipwreck of the HMS Sirius has outstanding heritage value to the national because of its potential to yield information that could contribute to a greater understanding of Australia's history of early European settlement. The remaining fabric of the Sirius and associated artefacts assemblages represent a "time capsule" of cultural life from the period leading up to 1790. In an international context the HMS Sirius also represents one of the few located examples of an 18th century British warship that exhibits the use of experimental construction techniques in the period following the American war of independence. Along with the HMS Pandora it is one of only two British naval ships from this period located in Australian waters.
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