Historical information

This pair of navigational lamps or lights was fitted to the vessel S.S. Rowitta when it was renovated to become a display passenger ferry at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village from 1976-2015.

Navigation lamps are used to indicate a vessel’s position and direction of travel to other vessels nearby. This system of coloured lamps is standardised throughout the world for all marine vessels, red is for port and green for starboard, (red is for the boats right hand side).
These navigation lamps were not the original fittings for this vessel but had come from a similar vessel of the same era of the early 1900’s. The history of the lamp fittings at this time is unknown.

The S.S. Rowitta, was a passenger steam ferry, built by Purdon & Featherstone, in Hobart (Tasmania) in 1909 from Huon Pine and Kauri planking. Her final configuration included three masts and ship rig.
The S.S. Rowitta took its first voyage from Hobart to Launceston in 1909 and operated for 30 years as a passenger ferry on the Tamar and Derwent Rivers. She also served as a freighter, an army supply ship, a luxury charter ferry and a floating restaurant as well as a prawn boat at Lakes Entrance. (She was also previously named “Sorrento” and “Tarkarri”.).

In the 1974 Rowitta was delivered to Port Fairy then later sailed to Warrnambool’s Breakwater where she was lifted out of Lady Bay and and moved into Flagstaff Hill’s Maritime Village. Transfer arrangements were coordinated by Jack Morse, of Morse Engineering, member of the Flagstaff Hill Planning Board, and Ken Goyen, local crane operator.

The ‘Rowitta’ was originally acquired to be rebuilt to match the original Speculant. When finances became tight in 1976 a review of all plans ended in the decision to restore the “Rowitta” to her original configuration. She was then restored, renamed the original name of “Rowitta” and installed in the Village’s Harbour Lake on display.

The Advisory Committee to Flagstaff Hill decided to have the Rowitta demolished in April 2015 due to extensive deterioration.


These lamps are an historical example of navigational equipment used in the early 20th century, adhering to a navigational standard that is worldwide, and a design similar to what is still being used today. They were used on an historical display vessel at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village as an aid to maritime education.

Physical description

Two side Navigation ships lamps quarter circle shaped metal boxes with glass window and removable lid. Lid attaches to box using four brackets, wingnuts and screws that swing down out of the way. Window of double thickness glass is inserted on curved side of box and attached by screws around the frame. The inner glass panel is coloured according to the lamp’s use; port is red starboard green. The port lamp has a round hole cut into each of the two straight sides and an electrical fitting inside. The starboard lamp also has a hole in each straight side (one with a threaded fitting on it). Its lid has additional cross bar on top that have a circular space in the centre, nuts and screws fit through holes in the ends and a folding handle is attached across the centre space.

Inscriptions & markings

Impressed into metal of 3689.2 is “STARBOARD PATT 8025”