Description of Sydney Cove

Robert Scott was fifth Mate on the Earl Cornwallis. During his time on the Earl Cornwallis he wrote a series of more than ten letters to friends and family in England and Scotland. The ninth letter held a description of his impressions of Sydney when the Earl Cornwallis arrived. These letters are currently held at the National Library of Australia.

“This is the wildest looking place ever was seen. We are quite near the shore trees growing out of the heart of rocks, which are all free stones and very soft, which I think is rather remarkable, plenty of Oysters growing upon them. The town is pretty large, at first sight you would take it for a camp, the houses all straggling, all one story & white. Very few of the natives is to be seen at Sydney, five or six canoes, with a man woman & child with there (sic) fishing gear, both men and women go stark naked. I never saw such ugly people they seem to be to be only one degree above a beast they sit exactly like a monkey. The men knock out the right fore tooth & the women cuts off the two first joints of there (sic) left little finger.”[1]

Edward Dayes, 1763­1804 View of Sydney Cove, New South Wales, from an original picture in the possession of Isaac Clementson Esqr. Call Number: V1 / 1802 / 1 Published date: 1802 Digital ID: a1528669 (Courtesy of the State Library of NSW)

Edward Dayes, 1763­1804 View of Sydney Cove, New South Wales, from an original picture in the possession of Isaac Clementson Esqr. Call Number: V1 / 1802 / 1 Published date: 1802 Digital ID: a1528669 (Courtesy of the State Library of NSW)

Mary Stevens

[1] NLA MS 1898. Robert Scott, Fifth mate on the Earl Cornwallis, 9th Letter, 16th August 1801


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