The South Australian Maritime Museum preserves the oldest nautical collection in Australia. In 1872 the Port Adelaide Institute began a museum collection to complement its library and its educational and social programs. That collection grew over the following century reflecting the seafarers and the ships that visited Port Adelaide. It is now held in trust at the South Australian Maritime Museum.

The Maritime Museum’s collections ranges from the Port Adelaide Lighthouse that was first lit in 1869 to a plaque that explorer Matthew Flinders left at Memory Cove in 1802 to mark the loss of eight seafarers. It includes figureheads, nautical instruments, bathing costumes, shipwreck artefacts, paintings, models and vessels.

Our scope is the maritime heritage of South Australia from the coast to inland waters. The collection of over almost 20,000 objects and over 20,000 images is at once a window to the heritage of the local community and to the ships of the world.

HMS Buffalo

Working model of HMS Buffalo, one of the first nine ships to bring migrants to South Australia in 1836.  It was made in South Australia's centenary year by John Keynes Dawe, aged twelve, to plans published in the Advertiser.

Buffalo was built in Calcutta by James Bonner and James Horsburgh in 1813 and purchased by the Royal Navy for use as a store ship. After service during the Napoleonic Wars, it made three voyages to New Zealand to collect wood for spars. During the second voyage, the Buffalo came to South Australia — one of the nine official ships bringing emigrants to the new colony in 1836. This working model was made in South Australia's centenary year by John Keynes Dawe, aged twelve, to plans published in the Advertiser. The model was the prize winner in the junior section of the Centenary Competition and was the only entrant to sail across the Torrens River.

Creator: John Keynes Dawe

Associated locations: River Torrens, Adelaide

Caption: Model HMS BUFFALO

AccessionNo: HT 1985.0220


Width: 260

Height: 825

Material: Wood, canvas, wire, cored.

Physical Description:
Non-cased model of HMS BUFFALO - 1030 metres long. A model of a three-masted wooden ship with all sails spread. The hull is black and green with a white stripe on the waterline. The ship carried five white lifeboats and a figurehead of a buffalo.

Significant to South Australian settlement history

The maker of this model is unknown. The original HMS BUFFALO brought the first group to South Australia from England. It landed at Holdfast Bay and carried South Australia's first governor, Governor Hindmarsh.