Brown was told to expect to sail at the end of 1800, only a few weeks after being offered the position. A succession of delays meant the voyage did not get under way until July 1801. Brown spent much of the meantime preparing for the voyage by studying Banks’ Australian plant specimens and copying out notes and descriptions for use on the voyage.
Though Brown’s brief was to collect scientific specimens of all sorts, he was told to give priority to plants, insects, and birds, and to treat other fields, such as geology, as secondary pursuits. In addition to Brown, the scientific staff comprised the renowned botanical illustrator Ferdinand Bauer; the gardener Peter Good, whose task was to collect live plants and viable seed for the use of Kew Gardens; the miner John Allen, appointed as mineralogist; the landscape artist William Westall; and the astronomer John Crosley, who would fall ill on the voyage out and leave the ship at the Cape of Good Hope, being belatedly replaced at Sydney by James Inman. Brown was given authority over Bauer and Good, both of whom were instructed to give any specimens they might collect to Brown, rather than forming separate collections. Both men would provide enthusiastic and hard-working companions for Brown, and thus Brown’s specimen collections contain material collected by all three men.