was master of the Supply under Commander Henry Lidgbird Ball. His letters to his friend Richard Knight form a valuable contribution to the early history of the settlements at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island.
On 21 January 1788 Blackburn accompanied Phillip on an excursion to Port Jackson to search for a site for settlement more suitable than Botany Bay. Sydney Cove was chosen and while the landing was taking place, Blackburn was already preparing provisions and equipment for the second colony at Norfolk Island. He sailed there on the Supply, in company with the Sirius, on 14 February. Blackburn discovered the landing place on the south part of the island, later named Sydney Bay.
On 9 March he sailed back with the Supply, exploring Lord Howe Island on the way, and bringing a load of turtles for the settlement at Port Jackson. Blackburn Island at Lord Howe was named after him, though he would have preferred it named after his friend Richard Knight.
Blackburn referred to the Aborigines as 'the lowest rank among the Human Race. They go Quite Naked and very Dirty', but he spent a lot of time among them, and by 1791 had composed what he called 'A Kind of Vocabulary' of the Aboriginal language.
In November 1788 he was given the charge of the Golden Grove storeship, and discovered a number of reefs between Sydney Harbour and Norfolk Island. In April 1789 he surveyed the north shore of Sydney Harbour and named Neutral Bay as a safe place for ships to moor and refit. In April 1790 he sailed with Ball to Batavia to buy urgently needed provisions for the colony. In January 1791, when Ball fell sick with fever contracted at Batavia, Blackburn was placed in charge of the Supply.
In March 1791, after 'near four years from Europe', he was looking forward to relief from England, convinced that the settlement 'will never answer the ends of government - on the contrary will be a constant and heavy burden on the mother country'.
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