The British Royal Navy purchased HMS Shark on the stocks in 1775. She was launched in 1776, and converted to a fireship and renamed HMS Salamander in 1778. The Navy sold her in 1783. She then became the mercantile Salamander. In the 1780s she was in the Greenland whale fisheries. In 1791 she transported convicts to Australia. She then became a whaling ship in the South Seas whale fisheries for a number of years, before becoming a general transport and then a slave ship. In 1804 the French captured her, but the Royal Navy recaptured her. She is last listed in 1811.
The Navy purchased Shark on the stocks in November 1775 and launched her on 9 March 1776. She was commissioned under Commander John Chapman. She sailed to the Leeward Island on 26 May 1776. On 27 July 1776 Shark had a sharp but inconclusive encounter with the USS Reprisal. Vice-admiral James Young sent her back to England in April 1777, together with Comet, as escorts to a convoy that also included Yarmouth, which Young was sending back for repairs following her engagement with the American privateer Randolph.
She returned to the Leeward Islands, leaving Britain on 27 July 1777. The Navy converted Shark to a fireship and renamed her Salamander on 23 July 1778.
Commander James Kinneer commissioned Salamander in November 1778 for Admiral Hardy's fleet. In September 1779 Commander the Hon. Seymour Finch replaced Kinneer. On 28 May 1780 Finch Salamander sailed for the Leeward Islands. In February 1781 Commander R. H. Hichens replaced Finch. In a case that went all the way to the Lords of Appeal, Salamander was among the vessels entitled to share in the prize money for the capture of the island of Saint Eustatius in February 1781.
At some point Commander the Honourable H.E. Stanhope replaced Hichens, only to be himself replaced on 5 September 1781 by Commander Edward Bowater. Although she was assigned to Sir George Brydges Rodney's division, she did not participate in the action at the Battle of the Chesapeake. In March 1782 Commander Richard Lucas replaced Bowater on the Leeward Islands stations, but one month later Commander Henry Deacon replaced Lucas on the Jamaica station. Salamander shared with Triton in the proceeds of the French sloop Prince of Orange, captured in March 1782 at Saint Lucia.
The Navy then sold Salamander on 14 August 1783.
Salamander appears in the 1786 Lloyd's Register with T. Ash, master, and P. Mellish, owner. Her trade is London-Greenland. That is, she was engaged in the Greenland (whale) fisheries. Already in 1784 she is reported to have taken "3 fish" (whales). In July 1787, Salamander, Ash, master, was reported to have taken two fish. In June 1788, "Salamander, of London", was reported to have no fish.
Under the command of John Nichol, master, Salamander was part of the Third Fleet, which transported convicts to Australia. She departed Portsmouth on 27 March 1791 and arrived on 21 August 1791 in Port Jackson, New South Wales. She embarked 160 male convicts, five of whom died during the voyage.
She left Port Jackson on 4 September 1791 for Norfolk Island and on the voyage was the first known vessel to enter Port Stephens. Salamander Point (now Nelson Head and Fly Point), Salamander Bay (now Nelson Bay), the present Salamander Bay and associated suburb were named after her. Salamander was then used as a whaler in the South Pacific and without much luck then continued to Peru. She was reported off the coast there in November 1792 with 30 tons of sperm oil. On 30 March 1793 she was "all well" at 33°0′N 37°0′W with 132 barrels of sperm oil and 6000 seal skins. She returned to England on 15 September 1793 with 117 tuns of sperm oil and 6100 seal skins.
Under the command of Captain William Irish, on 9 February 1794 Salamander sailed again for the New South Wales fishery. By May she was at Rio de Janeiro, where she underwent repairs and calefaction, i.e., caulking. She was in Rio again in May two years later, replenishing her supplies. She returned to Britain on 2 September 1796 with 141 tuns of sperm oil, seven tuns of whale oil, five cwt of bone, and 250 seal skins.
Captain Thomas Hopper may have sailed Salamander on a whaling voyage in 1797.
She underwent a "good repair" in 1799. Hopper then received a letter of marque on 13 December for Salamander. The Protection Lists, which exempted the crews of certain classes of vessels, such as whalers, from impressment, listed her from 1798 to 1800. She sailed in 1800 for the Brazil Banks. She stopped in at Rio de Janeiro in May 1800 seeking repairs after having been attacked. She was reported off the Cape of Good Hope in April 1801. A report on 16 June 1801 stated that Salamander had taken a Spanish prize off the Brazilian coast. On 2 October 1801 Salamander was at St Helena. She then returned to England on 8 November.
Lloyd's Register for 1802 lists Salamander as a London-based transport, with Hutchins, master, and still under the ownership of Mellish & Co. There is no mention of armament. She underwent another "good repair" that year.
During 1804, her ownership changed to Carver & Co., her master to Walbert, and her trade to London-Africa. A database of slave voyages shows Salamander having carried slaves from the Gold Coast to Cuba in 1803 while under the command of William Jameson, and under the ownership of Calvert. The same database shows her as having gathered slaves on the Gold Coast in 1804 with Anthony Calvert, owner, and Dederick Woolbert, master. Dedrick Woolbert received a letter of marque on 14 February 1804.
Despite her armament and letter of marque, Salamander was captured in 1804, recaptured, and taken into Barbados. The vessel that recaptured the "English Ship Salamander- (a Guineaman)", was HMS Heureux. The recapture notice did not mention any slaves, suggesting that she had already landed her human cargo.
From 1805 on, Lloyd's Register has an unchanged entry showing Wolbert, master, Calvert & Co., owner, and trade London-Africa. The database of slave voyages, however, has no further record of such voyages, and Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807. The entry continues unchanged through 1811. Salamander is no longer listed in 1812.