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The Los Angeles Times Book Prize, 1987 : HISTORY PRIZE : On Nov. 6, The Times will award its annual Book Prizes in five categories--biography, history, fiction, poetry and current interest--along with the Robert Kirsch Award for a body of work by a writer living in or writing on the West. This week we publish excerpts from the books nominated in history. : THE FATAL SHORE The Epic of Australia's Founding by Robert Hughes (Alfred A. Knopf)

October 18, 1987

The brutal colonization of the Australian continent, beginning in 1788 with the landing in Botany Bay of England's first prison fleet.

They had expected grassland with deep black soil and well-spaced trees, where crops could be planted without clearing; an ample source of building-stone; a protected anchorage.

But what Capt. Phillip saw from the deck as his ship rounded Point Solander and hauled into Botany Bay on Friday, Jan. 18, 1788, was a flat heath of paperbark scrub and gray-green eucalyptus, stretching featurelessly away under the grinding white light of that Australian summer. The dry buzzing monotony of the landscape did not match Cook's account. The bay was open and unprotected, and the Pacific rollers gave it a violent, persistent swell; the water was shallow, the holding-ground poor.

Supply anchored in the north of the bay, so that she could plainly be seen by ships in the offing. Phillip and some officers, including Lt. Philip Gidley King, hoisted out the boats in the afternoon and went looking for water. They made tentative contact with the Aborigines, giving them beads and mirrors. These "trembling" savages, King thought, "seemed quite astonished at the figure we cut in being clothed. I think it is very easy to conceive the ridiculous figure we must appear to these poor creatures, who were perfectly naked."

Over the next two days all the rest of the fleet arrived in Botany Bay. The Aborigines began to assemble in greater numbers on the rock-strewn spits and white beaches. As Sirius sailed past Point Solander, Capt. John Hunter watched them flourish their spears at her and cry "Warra, warra!" These words, the first recorded ones spoken by a black to a white in Australia, meant "Go away!"

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