What Did They Eat on the First Fleet?

The standard weekly rations of a person on the First Fleet consisted of grains, wild game and produce. The people of the First Fleet relied heavily upon the rations as their primary food source; rations were subject to be changed based on conditions.

The standard rationed amount of food per man per week consisted of 4 pounds of salted pork or 7 pounds of beef, 7 pounds of flour or bread, 3 pints of dried peas, one half pound of rice and 6 ounces of butter. Men received the full ration weekly, while women received three-quarters and children one half. Items were frequently substituted based on availability.

Their diet also consisted of game including items such as seafood, as it was readily available. However, wild food was not always practical, as the infestation of maggots and rats in the meat was common. Produce eaten consisted of any vegetables that could be successfully grown. The people of the First Fleet created a community garden that was tended by the prisoners.

The prisoners did not always eat their rations, instead they traded them in exchange for rum. Lack of food among the prisoners resulted in the prisoners stealing rations from others to avoid hunger. Records of a deceased convict state that his body was found to have a completely empty stomach. Some convicts had no cooking utensils and bartered part of their food rations for the loan of cooking implements. First Fleet passengers like this often had to eat their rations uncooked.

Great Britain began exiling their convicts to Australia after 1776, when they lost their American colonies; prior to this time, convicts were exiled to America. Around 160,000 prisoners were shipped to Australia for crimes as petty as stealing a loaf of bread.