Historical information

The flags were used for communicating messages to passing ships.
Knowledge of visual signaling was mandatory for all lightkeepers and all stations maintained
a set of these flags. Although used for centuries, visual flag signaling formally developed in
the nineteenth century and was published internationally as a system in 1857. By the early
twentieth century it had developed into an effective means of conveying all kinds of short
range visual messages.


The Cape Nelson Lightstation is architecturally and scientifically (technologically) important as the most intact complex of lightstation buildings in Victoria. The octagonal signal station is a unique feature which is all the more important for its complete set of signal flags’.

Physical description

Cape Nelson Lightstation’s complete set of 41 alphabetic and numeric visual signaling flags
(including substitute and answering pennants) are made of bunting, a coarse fabric of
worsted (open yarn wool) in various colour combinations, and some of the fabric is hand
sewn and bears inscriptions. Attachments include handmade wooden toggles, brass clips
and hemp rope.