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Biographical entry Raper, George (1769 - 1797)

Born
19 September 1769
England
Died
1797
Occupation
Natural history artist

Summary

George Raper is known for his water-colour drawings of subjects mainly associated with the First Fleet, the foundation of the colony and the settlement of Norfolk Island. His numerous natural history paintings include many species of flora and fauna now extinct. Many of his works are held at the National Library of Australia and the Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales.

Details

On 20 August 1783, at age thirteen, George Raper joined the Royal Navy as a captain's servant to be groomed as an officer. Four years later (22 December 1786) he was transferred to the HMS Sirius as an Abel Seaman and later (13 May 1787) set off with the rest of the First Fleet to the British colony at New South Wales. Their journey took them past many lands including the island of Madeira, the Canary Islands, Cape Verde Islands, Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town.

The fleet arrived at Botany Bay, then Port Jackson in January 1788. In October of that year the officers and crew of the Sirius were sent back to the Cape of Good Hope (Cape Town) to fetch supplies for the settlement. They began their return journey on 20 February 1789 and after experiencing treacherous conditions late in the journey eventually made it back safely to Port Jackson (circa May 1789). In June of that year the Sirius and its crew were relocated to Careening Cove (Mosman Bay).

By February 1790, the colony was once again short of supplies, so the Sirius and the Supply were sent to Norfolk Island to relocate two hundred of the convicts to ease the burden. Almost immediately after reaching Norfolk Island and offloading the convicts the weather changed for the worse and the Sirius became ship-wrecked while trying to leave. Raper and his fellow crew were stranded there for eleven months before the Supply returned to Norfolk Island to collect them. He remained in Port Jackson until 27 March 1791, then boarded the hired Dutch ship Waaksamheyd for the voyage back home, arriving in Portsmouth on 22 April 1792.

Raper was promoted to Second Lieutenant on the Speedy in June 1793 and First Lieutenant on the Cumberland in December 1795. He was given command of the Expedition on 20 July 1796 and died of unknown causes in 1797 at the young age of twenty-eight.

Throughout his five years at sea with the First Fleet, Raper kept thorough records of his travels, including numerous illustrations. There was no official artist assigned to the voyage, so Raper's artworks are of special significance, providing some of the first visual records of many of Australia's flora, fauna and landforms.

Events

1783 - 1786
Career position - Servant to the Captain of the Royal Navy's HMS Rose
1786
Career position - Able Seaman on the Sirius with the First Fleet
1787 - 1793
Career position - Promoted to Midshipman
1788
Career position - Arrived and settled in Port Jackson (January to October)
1788 - 1789
Career position - Sailed on the Sirius to the Cape of Good Hope for supplies
1789 - 1790
Career position - Returned to Port Jackson then moved to Careening Cove (now Mosman Bay)
1790
Life event - Ship-wrecked on Norfolk Island
1791
Career position - Returned to Port Jackson
1792
Career position - Arrived in England on the hired Dutch ship Waaksamheyd
1793 - 1795
Career position - Second Lieutenant on the Speedy
1795 - 1796
Career position - First Lieutenant on the Cumberland
1796 -
Career position - Commander of the Expedition

Archival resources

Adolph Basser Library, Australian Academy of Science

  • Australian Botanists - Biographies, MS 064; Adolph Basser Library, Australian Academy of Science. Details

Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales

  • George Raper - Records, 1770 - 1797; Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales. Details

The National Library of Australia

Published resources

Books

  • Groom, Linda, First Fleet Artist: George Raper's Birds and Plants of Australia , National Library of Australia, Canberra , 2009, 146 pp. Details

Book Sections

Journal Articles

Reviews

  • Lucas, Arthur M., review of Groom, Linda, First Fleet Artist: George Raper's Birds and Plants of Australia (2009), Archives of Natural History, vol. 36, no. 2, 2009, pp. 374-375. Details
  • Presland, Gary, review of First Fleet artist: George Raper's birds and plants of Australia, Historical Records of Australian Science, vol. 21, 2010, pp. 288-9. Details

Online Resources

McCarthy, G.J & Annette Alafaci