May 13, 1787. The First Fleet leaves for Australia. 11 ships left England for Australia, to establish the penal colony that would later become Sydney. 1487 people were on the ships, including 778 convicts. It was one of the most ambitious sea voyages attempted up to then -- it took 252 days to get there, on a round-about voyage going through Tenerife and Rio de Janeiro. 48 people died en route -- a death toll of only about 3%.