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Redland Museumm recently acquired a model of HMS Investigator, A British Royal Navy Survey Vessel, launched in 1795. In 1801, under the command of Matthew Flinders, she was the first ship to circumnavigate Australia.
The Investigator was built in Sunderland UK as a collier, under the name Fram. The Navy purchased her in 1798 for a mission to map the coastline of Australia. She set sail from Spithead on July 18th 1801, crossing the Indian Ocean and sighting Cape Leeuwin off South West Australia on 6th December 1801, completing the circumnavigation on 9th June 1803. The Investigator was chosen for this task due to her former role as a mercantile, which meant she had a small draught and ample supply room. She was a three-hundred and thirty-four tons ship, and resembled the description recommended by Captain James Cook for a ‘voyage of discovery’.
During this venture she was captained by Matthew Flinders, a British navigator and cartographer. He is known not only for his circumnavigation of Australia, but also for an expedition in which he and George Bass confirmed that Van Diemen’s Land is an island; as well as being the first person to use ‘Australia’ to describe the continent, known as New Holland at that time.
This model was hand made by Seacraft Galleries Pty Ltd. It is 860mm long and 570mm high.
This is a very detailed model, and the question one might ask is ‘how do we know that the Investigator looked like this”. Well, the answer is that we don’t exactly. The ship was originally built for commercial use, and although some surviving plan drawings show the hull shape, no detail remains of the superstructure and rigging. After acquisition by the Admiralty it underwent a major overhaul, and no doubt a change of many details. Admiralty records also show the basic parameters such as the type of hull, length, width, draft, and displacement. In addition, several artistic drawings and paintings of the Investigator survive. Some show the ship at anchor without sails raised, other with the ship under full sail in a stiff wind and these painting could only have been done from memory. The size and shape of the model would be accurate, but the fittings, colours and other details must be based on records of common practice on similar ships of that time.