Historical information

This is the whip's wheel that was on display for 40 years on the vessel SS Rowitta, installed on the lake at the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and Village as an educational display and attraction.

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. It 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. It 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, it 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 it was restored back to its original configuration. The vessel 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 ongoing repairs. The vessel had given over 100 years of service and pleasure to those who knew her.


The ship's wheel is an example of the equipment used on a steam ship for navigation.
This wheel is connected to the history of the Rowitta, which was a large exhibit on display at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village from the museum’s early beginnings until the vessel’s end of life 40 years later. The display was used 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

Ship's wheel, light coloured wood, eight turned spokes, brass hub in centre with square hold.
The wheel was part of the display of the vessel Rowitta at Flagstaff Hill.