HMS INVESTIGATOR was commanded by Matthew Flinders in 1801-1803 during his expedition to explore the Australian coastline. It was during this expedition that Flinders became the first European to circumnavigate Australia and produce detailed maps which were so accurate they were still being used in the 20th century. This model represents the INVESTIGATOR after it was altered in Sydney in 1802. There are no surviving ship designs for the vessel so this model was made from notes made by Flinders in 1802.
SignificanceThis model provides a detailed visual record of Matthew Flinders' ship HMS INVESTIGATOR and represents his epic journey around the coast of Australia in 1801-1803.
HistoryHMS INVESTIGATOR was built in northern England for the coal trade in 1795 and originally named XENOPHON. As a collier it displayed the typical bluff bow and relatively flat bottom that are characteristic of these vessels. On 17 April 1798 XENOPHON was bought by the Royal Navy, renamed INVESTIGATOR and refitted for an expedition to explore Australia's coastline. It was armed for this voyage with two '6-pounder' long guns, six '12-pounder' carronades and two '18-pounder' carronades.
From 1801-1803 INVESTIGATOR was under the command of Matthew Flinders. The expedition set out on 18 July 1801 with the aim of travelling to 'New Holland for the purpose of making a complete examination and survey' of the southern coast, the north-west coast, the Gulf of Carpentaria and parts westward, Torres Strait and if time permitted 'the whole of the remainder of the north, the west and the north-west'. It resulted in Flinders completing a circumnavigation of the entire Australian continent and recording details to produce the most accurate and detailed charts of the coastline.
Flinders found that the INVESTIGATOR leaked badly and that the expedition took a significant toll on the ship, which endured bad weather, reefs and groundings. In January 1802 Flinders requested that Governor King refit the vessel and make improvements that would help him conduct his remaining survey work. During this refit the higher bulwarks on the quarterdeck were lowered to aid sighting during navigation. A plant house was made smaller to reduce the ship's weight. INVESTIGATOR's hull was also painted with Stockholm tar and is believed to have been a deep yellow-brown colour.
Soon after the expedition was completed the ship was condemned as unseaworthy at Port Jackson in June 1803. It was moored in the harbour and used as a store ship until 1804 when Governor King decided the hull was still sound and ordered it to be repaired and used for short voyages.
In 1805 INVESTIGATOR returned to England carrying dispatches and in 1810 was sold by the Royal Navy Board into private hands.