Historical information

This portable, hand held visual signaling lamp, with trigger mechanism and inner reflective disk, was used for optical communication via Morse code, with the concave mirror tilted to focus the light into pulse signals. Larger versions of these lamps are fixed on ships or pedestals and have shutters in front of the light that are opened and closed to transmit signals. Smaller hand held versions like the Cape Nelson example have a concave mirror that is tilted to focus the light into pulse signals, and despite their size the lamps were renowned for their brilliant light. Invented by Arthur C W Aldis (1878‐1953) and pioneered by the British navy in the late nineteenth century, they continue to be used to the present day. Details on the Cape Nelson lamp include a serial number, a date of 1960 and the initials of the Department of Transport, which at that time incorporated the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service. Another lamp of the same date which is held at Wilsons Promontory was provided to the lighthouse by the Department of Shipping for signaling ships but was also used for communicating with Cliffy Island, 18 nautical miles away. Point Hicks also has an Aldis lamp and an associated case, which is painted an army green colour. A fourth lamp and case formerly at Cape Schanck disappeared from the collection sometime between 1995 and 2003. These types of lamps are not rare in museum collections.


These types of lamps are not rare in museum collections however the Cape Nelson example has a reliable provenance to the lightstation and has first level contributory significance as a fine example of the Aldis lamps that were distributed to lightstations throughout Victoria and Australia.

Physical description

This object is comprised of a black metal encased Aldis lamp with electrical cord and associated wooden carrying case with metal clasp and red leather hand grip.

Inscriptions & markings