B2371 Ship model, sloop HMS 'Investigator' in which Matthew Flinders circumnavigated Australia 1801-1803, brass / copper / various woods / flax / bamboo / bone, scale 1/8" to 1', made by Roland Michel Laroche, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1980. Click to enlarge.

Ship model, HMS ‘Investigator’

Made by Laroche, Roland Michel in Australia, Oceania, 1980.

This is a model of the HMS ‘Investigator’ made by Roland Michel Laroche in Sydney in 1980. The Investigator is highly significant in Australian history as it was the ship commanded by Lieutenant Matthew Flinders, when he circumnavigated Australia and charted the entire coastline. Built in Sunderland Co. Durham in1795, she had a long and illustrious life as collier, naval warship, explorer ship, and finally trader, until she was broken up in Port Philip in 1872.


Object No.


Object Statement

Ship model, sloop HMS 'Investigator' in which Matthew Flinders circumnavigated Australia 1801-1803, brass / copper / various woods / flax / bamboo / bone, scale 1/8" to 1', made by Roland Michel Laroche, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1980

Physical Description

Scale model of H.M Sloop "Investigator". Scale 1/8" to 1'. Model is fully detailed, complete with running and standing rigging and full set of sails. Comprehensive deck details include ivory figurehead, anchors, catheads and blocks, belaying rails and pins, capstan, bollards, deck rails and companionways, fire prevention netting, ship's wheel and binnacle, stern light and twenty brass cannons in carriages and open hinged gun ports. Ship's boat in davits with thwarts, rudder, tiller, anchor and interior detailing. Copper-sheathed with black band and blue and gilt sterncastle. Materials used: pearwood, poplar and boxwood for the hull, Irish flax for the rigging. Also used brass, white ash, bamboo and bone. Plaque: '1801 H.M.S INVESTIGATOR 1803/Commander Matthew Flinders, R.N./Monsieur R.M. Laroche Fecit'.


Plaque: `1801 H.M.S. INVESTIGATOR 1803/Commander Matthew Flinders, R.N./Monsieur R. M. Laroche'.



520 mm


220 mm


700 mm



The model was commissioned by the Museum in 1980. It was made by Roland Michel Laroche, Sydney, Australia in 1980.


Laroche, Roland Michel 1980



The warship 'HMS Investigator' was built in1795 at Monkwearmouthshore, Sunderland, Co. Durham as a collier for the North-East English coal trade, and was given the name 'Fram.' As a collier she was rated as a great load carrier, having a comparatively shallow draught, round bluff bows, broad deep centre section and tapered stern, but was rather slow sailing. She was sold in 1796 to James Dunning, a coal fitter of Darlington Co. Durham, resold to George Wakefield of North Shields Co. Durham, before being sold to the Royal Navy in April 1998 for 2000 pounds, and renamed HMS 'Xenophon'. Although in relatively poor condition, the 'Xenophon' was refitted as a warship, and had twenty gunports cut in her sides to accommodate twenty 32 pounder carronades. This reduced the integral strength of her hull. For the voyage of discovery to ?Terra Australis', her armament was reduced to two long 6 pounders, two 18 pound carronade stern chasers, six 12 pound carronades and two swivel guns. The ship was now renamed ' Investigator,' under the command of Lieutenant Matthew Flinders, along with botanist Robert Brown, botanical artist Ferdinand Bauer, and the landscape artist William Westall.
Matthew Flinders, born 16/03/1774 in Lincolnshire, entered the Royal Navy in 1789 as a 15 year old midshipman. He first served under Captain Bligh on HMS ' Providence' on a voyage taking breadfruit from Tahiti to the West Indies, with the purpose of starting commercial breadfruit production there. In January 1795 he joined HMS 'Reliance' along with another Lincolnshire native, George Bass, to travel from the penal colony of Botany Bay and to carry out a coastal survey to the south. Bass and Flinders used a 2.4 metre sailing boat, 'Tom Thumb,' to explore the coast south from Botany Bay. Later, transferring to the sloop HMS 'Norfolk,' they were the first to discover that there was a strait separating Tasmania from the mainland. They named it ' Bass Strait.'

Flinders returned to England in 1800 and married Ann Chappell. He was given a new commission to return to the penal colony aboard HMS 'Investigator' to conduct a thorough exploration of the continental coastline. His patron and benefactor was Sir Joseph Banks who, with his considerable political influence, was able to ease Flinder's path to obtaining required provisions and refitting of the ship. The circumnavigation and charting of the coastline was successfully completed between December 1801 and June 1803. The ?Investigator' was by then in poor condition with rotting timbers and was considered unseaworthy so was left decommissioned as a storeship at Port Jackson.

Flinders next sailed as a passenger on HMS 'Porpoise' but the ship was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef. He navigated the ship's cutter (small boat) across open sea back to Sydney, and arranged for the rescue of the remaining marooned crew. He then took command of the 29 ton schooner 'Cumberland' to return to England. However, the poor condition of the vessel forced him to put in at French-controlled Mauritius for repairs and provisions, on 17th December 1803. He was unaware that war had broken out between France and England. He and the ship were seized, and detained in Mauritius for nearly seven years. He was released in June 1810 and, now in poor health, eventually reached England 24th October 1810, where he received a promotion to Post-Captain. On 19th July 1814 the book ' A Voyage to Terra Australis' was published and, on the next day, Matthew Flinders died aged 40.

In 1804, Governor King ordered a survey of the 'Investigator.' It found the ship could be repaired, rerigged, and returned to active service. On 1805, the 'Investigator ' returned to England, carrying Robert Brown and Ferdinand Bauer along with their collections. She continued in naval service until November 1810 and, then in poor condition, was sold for scrap. However, instead of being broken up she was rebuilt, her hull was recoppered, she was fitted with a new quarterdeck and upperworks, rigged as a brigantine, and had her old name of 'Xenophen' reinstated. She traded to Canada, Russia, the Mediterranean, and in1853 arrived in Geelong from Liverpool during the Australian gold rush. She eventually completed her lifetime in Melbourne as a 2 masted hulk with one deck, and, finally broken up in 1872 at Port Philip.


Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences


Credit Line

Gift of Mr R M Laroche, 1980

Acquisition Date

27 July 1980

Cite this Object


Ship model, HMS 'Investigator' 2018, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 13 December 2018, <https://ma.as/211826>


{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/211826 |title=Ship model, HMS 'Investigator' |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=13 December 2018 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}


This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.

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