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Flinders around about this time.

HM Sloop Investigator was a survey ship of the Royal Navy. In 1802, under the command of Matthew Flinders, she was the first ship to circumnavigate Australia.


The ship was built in Sunderlandmarker as a collier, and was named Fram when launched in 1795. She operated off the north-east coast of England before being purchased by the Royal Navy in 1798. She was then refitted with 22 guns to serve as an escort vessel, and renamed Xenophon.

Australian voyage

At the urging of the naturalist Sir Joseph Banks, the Admiralty decided to launch an expedition to map the Australian coastline, as well as further study the plant and animal life on the new colony. The Xenophon was chosen for the expedition: her former mercantile role meant that she had a small draught and ample space for supplies, making her particularly suitable for a long exploratory voyage. On the other hand, she was in relatively poor condition, and could therefore be spared from service in the war against France.

After a refit, which included making additional cabins for scientists and space on the deck for plant specimens, she was renamed Investigator.

On 19 January, 1801, the Navy appointed Lieutenant Flinders commander of the Investigator, and he would arrive to take command on 25 January. He would later write:

The Investigator set sail for Australia on 18 July 1801. Attached to the expedition was the botanist Robert Brown, the botanical artist Ferdinand Bauer and the landscape artist William Westall. Due to the scientific nature of the expedition, Flinders was issued with a French passport, despite England and France then being at war.

Circumnavigation (Dec 1801 - 9 June, 1803)

However, the conversion had failed to rectify and fix major faults with the ship, and so the voyage to Australia revealed that she was in poor shape, the wood was rotting and there were serious extensive leaks.

By now a number of the crew were unwell with numerous diseases such as scurvy, so the circumnavigation was cut short and the ship was forced to limp back to Sydneymarker to undergo repairs. On its return to Sydney, Governor Philip Gidley King requested that a survey of the vessel be carried out:

Flinders left the now decommissioned Investigator as a hulk at Port Jacksonmarker, and attempted to return to England as a passenger aboard HMS Porpoise.

Later years (1804 - 1810)

In 1804, Governor King of Sydney ordered a survey, which found that the Investigator could be repaired and returned to service. The work involved cutting down the front deck and re-rigging the ship, to prepare her for another voyage.

In 1805 Investigator sailed back to England, carrying two of Flinders' botanists, Robert Brown and Ferdinand Bauer and their collections. The ship endured several fierce storms enroute but arrived safely. She continued in service for another few years, but was eventually taken out of service and broken up in November 1810, as a "noble, hard-working ship which did not deserve this fate".

See also


  1. - unknown quoter


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