Justinianby Penny Edwell, 2016
supported by The Maritime Museums of Australia Project Support Scheme - Second Fleet project Cite this
By Penny Edwell
The supply ship Justinian was the second ship of the Second Fleet to arrive in Sydney after a swift voyage of five months. Justinian was a three-decked, 389-ton ship built in Blackwall on the Thames  in 1787. 
The Second Fleet ships Lady Juliana, a female convict transport, and HMS Guardian, a supply ship, left England for New South Wales in July and September 1789 respectively. In late 1789, as the next convict transports Neptune, Scarborough and Surprize were getting ready to depart, it became clear that they would be unable to hold all the provisions that were required for the colony in New South Wales, which was nearing starvation. 
Recommendations were promptly made that the Government advertise for a storeship to accompany the three convict transports and convey the extra cargo. By 19 November 1789, Justinian was selected and passed inspection at the Deptford naval dockyard,  having recently returned from Jamaica with a cargo of sugar. 
Justinian was loaded with 1,400 casks of flour and 233 barrels of pork as well as smaller quantities of beef, pease, oatmeal, vinegar, spirits, oil and sugar. Also on board were cloth, clothing, blankets and a portable military hospital. 
Benjamin Maitland was appointed to command Justinian, and with a crew of around 36,  the ship departed Falmouth in Cornwall on 17 February 1790.  Justinian stopped briefly at Madeira, and then at Saint Jago for four days before sailing directly for Sydney. With no convicts on board, the vessel was able to bypass both Rio de Janeiro and the Cape of Good Hope,  arriving in Australia after an expeditious voyage of only five months.
Justinian entered Port Jackson on 20 June 1790  and would have arrived earlier if not for a heavy gale that drove the ship north of Black Head.  The female convict transport Juliana, despite having left a full six months earlier, arrived in Sydney two weeks before Justinian and brought with it the news that the Second Fleet storeship, HMS Guardian, loaded with desperately needed supplies, was wrecked after leaving the Cape of Good Hope. The successful voyage of Justinian and its cargo of provisions altered the immediate fate of the colony from 'probable starvation to probable survival'. 
The relief of Justinian’s arrival was, however, quickly negated by the arrival of the three transports Neptune, Scarborough and Surprize and their cargoes of sick and dying convicts. Between the three ships, fewer than 250 of more than 1,000 convicts landed in a reasonable state of health, placing an immediate strain on the colony's medical resources.  The hospital at Sydney Cove was soon overwhelmed and the portable military hospital brought by Justinian was immediately filled as soon as it was assembled. 
By 19 July Justinian’s cargo was unloaded, except for approximately 500 casks of provisions intended for the settlement at Norfolk Island.  At the end of the month Justinian departed Sydney for Norfolk Island and was followed three days later by Surprize. 
On 7 July Justinian and Surprize were sighted approaching Norfolk Island. The two ships remained for three weeks unloading provisions, mail and around 200 convicts. Surprize sailed from Norfolk Island for Canton on 29 August, and Justinian followed a day later. 
With the exception of the wrecked HMS Guardian, all of the second fleet ships converged on Canton between 26 October and 7 November, where they were loaded with tea to freight home. Justinian arrived in Canton on 27 October and in early December sailed along the Chinese coast to Whampoa, taking on board additional cargo. From here all five ships joined an East India Company convoy which sailed for England on 20 March 1791.  Along with Neptune, Scarborough and Lady Juliana, Justinian was reported to have returned to England by 2 October 1791. 
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