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John Marshall (explorer)

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John Marshall (explorer), (lived late 18th century), English seafarer who took part in the early settlement of Australia and was in the first group of Europeans to see the Marshall Islands. Marshall, also known as William Marshall, was a captain for the English East India Company. In May 1787 he sailed from England in command of the Scarborough, a ship of the First Fleet, which was taking the first convict settlers to the new colony of New South Wales, Australia. Marshall’s voyage to the colony took about eight months. He made repairs to his ship at Botany Bay, near present-day Sydney, and in May 1788 sailed for home. Accompanying the Scarborough was another ship of the First Fleet, the Charlotte, under the command of Thomas Gilbert.

Marshall and Gilbert headed their ships on a course northwest and north of Norfolk Island and into an area of the central Pacific that had not yet been completely mapped. In the last weeks of June 1788, they came upon several island chains that were still largely unknown to seafarers. The first of these became known as the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati), in honor of Gilbert. About a week later and about 1125 km (about 700 mi) to the northwest, Marshall and Gilbert came upon a second island group that now bears Marshall’s name. Marshall’s only contact with the indigenous peoples of these islands was when he fired his ship’s guns at some approaching canoes he thought were attacking the ship.

Marshall and Gilbert sailed on to Tinian, near Guam, then to Guangzhou (also known as Canton), China, to load cargo before returning to England. Marshall made at least one more voyage to Australia, but little else is known about his life after 1789.



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