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 1909 steam ferry, SS Rowitta, was installed as an exhibit at Flagstaff Hill in 1975 and was enjoyed by many visitors for 40 years.

Rowitta was a timber steam ferry built in Hobart in 1909 using planks of Huon and Karri wood. She was a favourite of sightseeing passengers along Tasmania’s Tamar and Derwent rivers for 30 years. Rowitta was also known as Tarkarri and Sorrento and had worked as a coastal trading vessel between Devonport and Melbourne, and Melbourne Queenscliff and Sorrento.

In 1974 Rowitta was purchased by Flagstaff Hilt to convert into a representation of the Speculant, a historic and locally significant sailing ship listed on the Victorian Heritage Database.

(The Speculant was built in Scotland in 1895 and traded timber between the United Kingdom and Russia. Warrnambool’s P J McGennan & Co. then bought the vessel to trade pine timber from New Zealand to Victorian ports and cargo to Melbourne. She was the largest ship registered with Warrnambool as her home port, playing a key role in the early 1900s in the Port of Warrnambool. In 1911, on her way to Melbourne, she was wrecked near Cape Otway. None of the nine crew lost their lives.)

The promised funds for converting Rowitta into the Speculant were no longer available, so she was restored back to her original configuration. She represented the importance of coastal traders to transport, trade and communication in Australia times before rail and motor vehicles.

Sadly, in 2015 the time had come to demolish the Rowitta due to her excessive deterioration and the high cost of on-going repairs. She had given over 100 years of service and pleasure to those who knew her.


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 the display vessel at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village as an aid to maritime education.
The Rowitta represents the importance of coastal traders to transport, trade and communication along the coast of Victoria, between states, and in Australia before rail and motor vehicles.
The vessel was an example of a ferry built in the early 20th century that served many different roles over its lifetime of over 100 years.

Physical description

Two side navigation ship's lamps, quarter circle shaped metal boxes with glass window and removable lid. The lid attaches to the box using four brackets, wingnuts and screws that swing down out of the way. The window of double-thickness glass is inserted on the curved side of the box and attached by screws around the frame. The inner glass panel is coloured according to the lamp’s use; port is red and 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). Its lid has an additional cross bar on top that has 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.
The lamps were once fitted onto the vessel Rowitta.
The starboard lamp has an inscription stamped into the metal.

Inscriptions & markings

Impressed on 3689.2; “STARBOARD PATT 8025”