The Neptune of the notorius second fleet 1790
My 4th great grandfather Thomas HEATHER/EATHER 1764-1827 arrived on the Neptune in 1790
The Neptune was built on the river Thames in 1779, at 809 tons she was the largest ship of the second fleet. In company with the Surprise and Scarborough she sailed from England with 421 male and 78 female convicts on 19 January 1790. Her master was Donald Traill and surgeon was William Gray. She arrived at the Cape of Good Hope on 13 April 1790, and spent sixteen days there, taking on provisions, and twelve male convicts from the HMS Guardian which had been wrecked after striking an iceberg. She and Scarborough were parted from Surprize in heavy weather and arrived at Port Jackson on 28 June 160 days out from England. On the first fleet 48 people died on the voyage, but this time 158 convicts died (31%) and 269 (53%) were sick when landed. The voyage was in the hands of private contractors.
The treatment of convicts aboard the Neptune was unquestionably the most horrific in the history of transportation to Australia. Convicts suspected of petty theft were flogged to death; most were kept chained below decks for the duration of the voyage; scurvy and other diseases were endemic; and the food rations were pitiful.
When reports of the complaints reached England, the 'strictest inquiry' was promised into this 'shocking calamity'. Towards the end of November 1791, the depositions of some of the Neptune's crew and several marines were taken before Alderman Clark at the Guildhall in London.
These witnesses certified that Traill and his first mate had kept the convicts short of rations and upon arrival in the colony they opened a warehouse and sold the said provisions.
Traill and his first mate absconded until the outcry died down. Upon their return to England, the Master, Donald Traill and Chief Mate, William Ellerington, were privately prosecuted for the murder of an un-named convict, along with a seaman named Andrew Anderson and a cook named John Joseph. After a trial lasting three hours before Sir James Marriott in the Admiralty Court, the jury acquitted both men on all charges "without troubling the Judge to sum up the evidence". There were no public prosecutions. Traill who had been master of the 'Albermarle' under Nelson went on to become Master at the Cape.
The 2nd fleet contractors Camden, Calvert and King also escaped prosecution.
Amongst the arrivals on the Neptune during this voyage was D'Arcy Wentworth, John Macarthur his wife Elizabeth, and their son Edward. Edward Macarthur who left England on the Neptune, transferred to the Scarborough during the voyage after a quarrel with the captain.