PETER Hibbs would have to be one of the most famous people you've probably never heard of.
But he should be better remembered than he is, standing in the shadows of more famous colonial identities.
Hibbs would have known Captain Arthur Phillip, the commander the First Fleet coming to Australia from Britain in 1788.
Being an able seaman, Hibbs was also on familiar terms with John Hunter, the master of the flagship HMS Sirius who went on to become governor of NSW.
Hibbs (1757-1847) later also had a special link with early maritime explorers Bass and Flinders, who totally relied on his judgement and skills on a voyage that would prove Tasmania was an island.
Much earlier, this 'unknown' colonial pioneer also claimed he was onboard HMB Endeavour on its trailblazing voyage under Lieutenant James Cook when Australia was first sighted in April 1770, about 250 years ago this month.
Besides his numerous brushes with fame with figures from the early pages of the European history of Australia, Hibbs was also shipwrecked, not once, but twice, north and south of Newcastle.
This history page is indebted to Bob Lee, of Kotara, who recently alerted me to the existence of Hibbs.
And, apparently, I am not alone.
"Many years ago I told the (late Newcastle historian) Dr John Turner about Hibbs. Hibbs has been neglected," Lee, aged 83, says.
"John was astonished when I told him about who Hibbs was and what he'd done.
"Hibbs came out on the First Fleet for a start, and that alone is very, very significant. I believe he was one of the few non-convict, First Fleeters who then settled here.
"Also interesting to me is that although he was a lowly position onboard HMS Sirius, it was the lead ship.
"Think of the connections he would have made on that voyage out; mixing with people like John Hunter and Phillip Gidley King, both future NSW governors, and John Shortland (the man who later named the Hunter River).
"I first came across an outline of Hibbs' life from a story in a NRMA magazine from 1984 about a graveyard on the Hawkesbury River at Laughtondale, about three kilometres from Wisemans Ferry," Lee says.
"Headed 'Where the pioneers lie', the article told of where the remains of Peter Hibbs, one of Australia's colonial heroes, ended up.
"It was said, back then in the 1980s at least, that readers probably wouldn't find the name of Peter Hibbs in the history books, but that he did play a key role in Australia's early maritime history.
"The article quoted a Mrs L. Miller, of Connells Point, who had responded to a request for readers to provide information about interesting or forgotten graves or graveyards in NSW.
"Mrs Miller wrote that Hibbs was her great-great-grandfather and was believed to be the only man to have sailed to Botany Bay with Cook (as a boy seaman) in 1770 and then again with the First Fleet as a marine (sic) in 1788."
Lee believes Hibbs was also with Governor Phillip in 1789 when they explored the Hawkesbury River as far as the present Wisemans Ferry region. (In 1803-04 Hibbs would eventually settle here.)
Hibbs then became the sailing master of the ship Norfolk when Matthew Flinders and Bass circumnavigated Tasmania in 1798.
As a result, Point Hibbs, Hibbs Bay, Hibbs Lagoon plus Hibbs River and Hibbs Pyramid (an odd shaped island) are all named after him on Tasmania's west coast, south of Macquarie Harbour.
Lee says from what he's read, Peter Hibbs came to Australia first with Captain Cook as a cabin boy arriving at Botany Bay on Endeavour on April 28, 1770.
The ship stayed 17 days before sailed home up the Aussie east coast to England.
But wait, there's more. Was Hibbs the second Englishman to step ashore at Botany Bay, straight after the distinguished botanist Sir Joseph Banks, in 1770?
Hibbs (1757-1847) later also had a special link with early maritime explorers Bass and Flinders.
Hibbs is certainly credited with this claim to fame, which was published in the Windsor and Richmond Gazette in 1890, probably from information provided by the family.
No primary source material, however, can verify this.
However, it's just possible that the claim Hibbs was onboard Endeavour as a youngster is correct, even though his name doesn't appear on the ship's muster.
But, then again, he was under-age.
His gravestone carries his birthdate as 1857, so Hibbs would have been about 11 when Endeavour left England in August 1768.
Having such young lads on ship wasn't uncommon. They were useful as errand boys and underwent sail training.
Anyway, Arthur Phillip once wrote that Hibbs had been chosen to join the crew of HMS Sirius for the 1788 landing as Hibbs "had previously visited these shores".
And if not earlier with Cook, then on whose ship?
Bob Lee also reveals Hibbs was among the crew of HMS Sirius when it was wrecked on Norfolk Island in March 1790.
Despite the crew later being rescued, Hibbs settled on the island, marrying his convict bride, Mary, there probably in late 1791.
While there, Hibbs also helped build the 25-ton decked sloop Norfolk, using some timbers salvaged from the HMS Sirius wreck.
He later sailed the sloop to Sydney where Governor Hunter promptly confiscated it, before placing Hibbs back in charge of Norfolk to take explorers Matthew Flinders and George Bass on a voyage of discovery around Tasmania (then Van Dieman's Land) in 1798-99.
Then in 1799, Hibbs took Flinders up the coast north to survey Moreton Bay and Harvey Bay.
In 1804, Hibbs was granted land to establish a farm beside the Hawkesbury River.
By 1816, Hibbs owned a small sloop called Recovery, sailing with grain between the Hawksbury River and Sydney town when his vessel was blown out to sea and wrecked between Newcastle and Port Stephens.
With great difficulty, Hibbs, his son and a female passenger then had to walk about 80 kilometres to the closest settlement at Newcastle.
The trio then got passage from Newcastle on the sloop Windsor back to Sydney but were wrecked a second time, this time on Long Reef, near Collaroy Beach, before getting home.
After further misadventures, Hibbs died peacefully at home aged 90.
As Bob Lee says: "What an eventful life".