Botany Bay facts for kids

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Sydney SPOT 1210
Image of Botany Bay by SPOT Satellite

Botany Bay is a bay in Sydney, New South Wales. It is a few kilometres south of the Sydney central business district. The Cooks River and the Georges River are the two major tributaries that flow into the bay. Two runways of Sydney Airport extend into the bay.

On 29 April 1770, Botany Bay was the site of James Cook's first landing of HMS Endeavour on the continent of Australia. Later the British planned Botany Bay as the site for a penal colony. Out of these plans came the first European to live in Australia at Sydney Cove.

Aboriginal lived in this area dating back 5,000 years. The Aboriginal people of Sydney were known as the Eora.

Even though it is a busy port, there are many types of marine life. The area around its entrance is some of the best scuba diving in the Sydney area. The world's largest population of weedy sea dragon found was on the southern side.

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History

Aboriginal history

Archaeological evidence from the shores of Botany Bay has yielded evidence of Aboriginal settlement dating back 5,000 years. The Aboriginal people of Sydney were known as the Eora with sub-groups derived from the languages they spoke. The people living between the Cooks River and the Georges River were the Bidjigal clan; on the southern shores of the bay were the Gweagal clan; while on the northern shore it was the Kameygal clan. An artefact collected on Cook's first voyage in Botany Bay is the bark shield left behind by a member of a local Aboriginal tribe. This very rare object is now in the British Museum's collection and was the subject of a programme in the BBC radio series A History of the World in 100 Objects.

British history

Midhsipman Isaac Smith
Isaac Smith became the first European to set foot on eastern Australian soil, Cook telling him "Jump out, Isaac" as the ship's boat touched the shore at Botany Bay.
SLNSW 826105 Botany Bay New South Wales ca 1789 watercolour by Charles Gore
Botany Bay, 1788 watercolour by Charles Gore

Lieutenant James Cook first landed at Kurnell, on the southern banks of Botany Bay, on Sunday 29 April 1770, when navigating his way up the east coast of Australia on his ship, HMS Endeavour. Cook's landing marked the beginning of Britain's interest in Australia and in the eventual colonisation of this new ‘southern continent’. Initially the name Sting Ray Harbour was used by Cook and other journal keepers on his expedition, for the stingrays they caught. That name was also recorded on an Admiralty chart. Cook's log for 6 May 1770 records "The great quantity of these sort of fish found in this place occasioned my giving it the name of Stingrays Harbour". However, in the journal prepared later from his log, Cook wrote instead:(sic) "The great quantity of plants Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander found in this place occasioned my giving it the name of Botanist Botany Bay".

Eighteen years later, in 1788, Governor Arthur Phillip sailed the armed tender HMS Supply into the bay on 18 January. Two days later the remaining ships of the First Fleet arrived to found the planned penal colony. However, the land was quickly ruled unsuitable for settlement as there was insufficient fresh water; Phillip also believed the swampy foreshores would render any colony unhealthy. Phillip decided instead to move to the excellent natural harbour of Port Jackson to the north.

On the morning of 24 January the French exploratory expedition of Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse was seen outside Botany Bay. On 26 January, the Supply left the bay to move up to Port Jackson and anchor in Sydney Cove. On the afternoon of 26 January, the remaining ships of First Fleet arrived at Sydney Cove.

In 1789, Captain John Hunter surveyed Botany Bay after returning from the Cape of Good Hope, trading for grain. The good supply of fresh water in the area led to the expansion of its population in the 19th century.

Landmarks

La Perouse 3
Monument at La Perouse.

Sydney Airport, Australia's busiest airport, sits on northwestern side of Botany Bay. Land was reclaimed from the bay to extend its first north-south runway and build a second one parallel to it.

The first container terminal at Port Botany, to the east of the airport, was completed during the 1970s, and is the largest container terminal in Sydney. A second container terminal was completed during the 1980s and bulk liquid storage facilities are located on the northern and southern edge of the bay. A third container terminal was completed in 2011 and was scheduled to be operational during 2013. Now a fourth one is being established in Sydney. This container will be constructed as the largest container, surpassing the first container built in the 1970s.

The land around the headlands of the bay is protected by the National Parks and Wildlife Service as Botany Bay National Park. On the northern side of the mouth of the bay is the historic site of La Perouse, and to the south is Kurnell. Despite its relative isolation, the southern shore of the bay is dominated by an unusual mixture of pristine national park and heavy industrial use that includes Kurnell Desalination Plant, the Caltex Oil Refinery, sewer treatment, and historical sand mining facilities. On the southern side of the bay, a section of water has been fenced off under the authority of the National Parks and Wildlife Service at Towra Point for environmental conservation purposes.

The western shores of the bay feature many popular swimming beaches including Brighton-Le-Sands and is highly urbanised.

Marine life

Botany Bay has a diverse marine population, and the area around its entrance is a popular area for scuba diving. In recent times, the Botany Bay Watch Project has begun with volunteers assisting to monitor and protect the Bay Catchment and its unique marine life.

The world's largest population of weedy sea dragon ever surveyed is found at the 'Steps' dive site, on the Kurnell side of the Botany Bay National Park. Weedy sea dragons are just one of hundreds of territorial marine creatures found within Botany Bay. The eastern blue grouper is the state fish of New South Wales; and are commonly found following divers along the shore line of Botany Bay.

Popular culture

  • Despite the move to Sydney Cove, for many years the Australian penal colony would be referred to as "Botany Bay" in England, and in ballads such as "The Fields of Athenry," by Irish songwriter Pete St. John.
  • A song named "Botany Bay" was performed in the 1890s, based on older tunes.
  • A song entitled "The Shores of Botany Bay" was written by Brian Warfield and recorded by The Wolfe Tones in the early 1970s. This satirical song deals with a group of Irishmen volunteering for the transportation process in the hopes of finding wealth in Australia.
  • In the 1941 historical novel Botany Bay by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, the protagonist, after various adventures and misadventures in England, gets transported to Botany Bay. A movie based on the book starring Alan Ladd and James Mason was shot in 1953.
  • The song "Jim Jones at Botany Bay" (aka "Jim Jones") is about a prisoner who is going to Botany Bay. The song has been recorded several times, including a well-known version by Bob Dylan.
  • SS "Botany Bay" was the name of the spaceship on which Khan Noonien Singh and his followers were exiled from Earth in Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
  • In the play and musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Benjamin Barker, the man who would become Sweeney Todd, was transported to Botany Bay for life on a false charge by Judge Turpin.
  • In the MMORPG Runescape, Botany Bay is the name of a location in-game where players can view other players' accounts being penalized for using computer macros to cheat.

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