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Why Australia's First Fleet Sailed on Hemp

Hempco LogoHempco Admin
3 Mins. Read

Harnessing Nature’s Strength: The Legacy of Hemp Sails

As we delve into the rich tapestry of Australia’s maritime history, an intriguing chapter emerges from the late 18th century.

The First Fleet, a historical convoy that marked the beginning of European settlement in Australia, embarked on its arduous journey with a secret strength: sails made from hemp.

At Margaret River Hemp Co, we celebrate not just the modern uses of hemp but also its remarkable past, a past deeply intertwined with our nation’s origins.

The Legacy of Hemp Sails

The Age of Sail and Hemp’s Central Role

During the Age of Sail, hemp was the material of choice for making sails, ropes, and riggings for ships.

This era, a pivotal time in maritime history, saw the reliance on wind-powered vessels, and hemp's robustness made it an invaluable resource.

The First Fleet, which set sail in 1787, consisted of 11 ships, all of which relied on hemp sails to traverse the vast and treacherous waters on their way to Australia.

The Age of Sail and Hemp’s Central Role

Why hemp?

  1. Durability in Harsh Conditions: Hemp fibres are known for their incredible strength and resistance to decay. This made them ideal for withstanding the salty, damp conditions at sea.
    The long, tough fibres of the hemp plant were woven into sails that could endure the constant battering of winds and waves, a critical requirement for the months-long journey the First Fleet undertook.
  2. Sustainability Then and Now: Even in the 18th century, sustainability was a concern, albeit framed differently. Hemp was a sustainable crop, requiring relatively little water and no pesticides, making it an environmentally friendly option even then. Its ability to grow quickly and yield a high volume of fibres per acre made it a practical choice for the large quantities of material needed for maritime ventures.
  3. Economic and Strategic Value: Hemp was not just a crop; it was a strategic resource. Nations vied for control of hemp production, as a strong naval fleet was crucial for military and trade dominance. The British, understanding this, invested heavily in hemp cultivation to ensure their naval strength, including the fleet bound for Australia.
Why hemp

The First Fleet and Beyond

The First Fleet’s use of hemp sails is a testament to the historical significance of this versatile plant. The journey, spanning over 24,000 kilometres and taking 252 days, was a monumental feat, made possible in part by the resilience of hemp.

This journey marked the beginning of European settlement in Australia, and thus, hemp sails played a role not only in naval history but also in the shaping of our nation.

The First Fleet and Beyond

Embracing the Past, Shaping the Future

At Margaret River Hemp Co., we draw inspiration from this legacy. Just as hemp sails carried the First Fleet safely to Australian shores, we harness the same natural strength and sustainability in our products.

From our eco-friendly Hemp Building Grade Hurd to our all-natural skincare range, we're committed to continuing the tradition of harnessing hemp's incredible potential.

In conclusion, the use of hemp sails by Australia’s First Fleet is more than a historical fact; it's a narrative of strength, resilience, and sustainability.

It reminds us of the enduring relationship between humanity and the natural world, a relationship we at HempCo cherish and strive to foster through our products and practices.