KING, Phillip Parker (1791-1856)


KING, Phillip Parker (1791-1856)
rear-admiral and explorer
was the eldest son of Philip Gidley King (q.v.), third governor of New South Wales, and his wife Anna Josepha, daughter of Mr Coombes of Bedford. He was born at Norfolk Island on 13 December 1791 and was educated in England. He joined the navy in 1807 as a first-class volunteer, showed bravery in actions fought in 1808 and 1809 and in 1810 was master's mate of the Hibernia. He served on various vessels on the Mediterranean station, and in February 1814 was made lieutenant on the Trident. In February 1817 Earl Bathurst informed Macquarie (q.v.) that King had been entrusted to command an expedition to complete the exploration of the coast of Australia begun by Flinders (q.v.). King arrived at Sydney in September, and a cutter, the Mermaid, of about 85 tons was purchased for his use which sailed on 22 December 1817. Course was set to the south-west of Australia, and Cape Leeuwin was rounded on 1 February 1818. Sickness in his crew and the loss of two anchors gave King great anxiety, and all suffered much from the heat. He, however, persevered and succeeded in mapping parts of the coast and reaching as far as the 134th meridian on the north of Australia. He then retraced his course and arrived at Port Jackson on 29 July 1818. Early in the following year he went to Tasmania and surveyed the entrance of Macquarie Harbour, and in May assisted J. Oxley (q.v.) in his discovery of Port Macquarie on the north coast of New South Wales. King then proceeded north and passed Cape York on 25 July. A westerly course was followed to Wessel's Islands and soon afterwards the Liverpool River was discovered and much of the coast was charted to Cape Londonderry, which was reached by 30 September. There was sickness in the crew, and in the following month, finding that he was short of water, King made for Koepang in the island of Timor. There water and fresh provisions were obtained and the return journey begun. Sydney was reached on 12 January 1820. He had succeeded in surveying 540 miles of the northern coast in addition to the 500 he had previously examined. Besides this a running survey of the 900 miles on the east coast between the Percy Isles and Torres Strait had been made and a much safer route had been discovered.
On 14 June King began his third voyage. During the next six months Australia was circumnavigated, though for a great part of the voyage the Mermaid was in a very leaky condition. On 4 December shipwreck was narrowly escaped on a reef off Botany Bay but after sheltering for a few days King arrived at Sydney on 9 December 1820. The Mermaid was found to be in so bad a condition that a new and larger vessel of 170 tons was obtained and re-christened the Bathurst. Sailing on 26 May 1821 north to Torres Strait, the survey of the coast on the north-west of Australia was continued to Cape Latouche Treville. King then finding the wind continually adverse sailed for Mauritius where repairs were made and stores taken in. He then steered for the south-west coast of Australia and surveyed it from Rottnest Island north to Cygnet Bay, which was reached on 19 February 1822, and next day began the return journey to Port Jackson. He arrived on 25 April and found orders waiting recalling him to England. While in England he prepared his Narrative of a Survey of the Intertropical and Western Coasts of Australia, published in 1827 in two volumes. In 1825 he was appointed to the command of the Adventure sloop with instructions to survey the southern coasts of the peninsula of South America. The voyages began in November 1826 and in November 1830 Captain King was paid off, having done excellent work. An account of the South American voyages will be found in Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle by King and Robert Fitzroy published in 1839.
King held land in New South Wales and soon afterwards returned to Australia. He had been nominated to the legislative council in 1829, but on account of his absence his place was filled by his brother-in-law Hannibal Macarthur. King held that at least he should be given the next vacancy, but the governor, Sir Richard Bourke, thought it inadvisable that in a council of only 14 members two should be so closely related. King persisted in his claim until in 1838 Lord Glenelg refused to continue the correspondence. However, King was appointed to the council in 1839, and in the same year was made resident commissioner of the Australian Agricultural Company. In 1851 he was elected to the legislative council as member for Gloucester and Macquarie. He was promoted to the rank of rear-admiral of the blue in 1855, and died on 26 February 1856.
Admiral King was a good officer who in a mere cockle-shell of a ship did some excellent exploring. He was well-educated, a fellow of the Royal Society and of the Linnean Society, and in his later years did useful work as a citizen which earned general respect. The reproductions of his sketches in the volumes describing his voyages suggest that he was an amateur artist of some ability. Two of his water-colours are in the national gallery at Perth. His portrait is at the Mitchell library.
King married when a young man Harriet, daughter of Christopher Lethbridge of Launceston, Cornwall, who survived him with several children, of whom the eldest was Philip Gidley King (1817-1904). He was born at Parramatta on 31 October 1817 and went to England in 1823. In 1826 he accompanied his father on the Adventure and in December 1831 became a midshipman on the Beagle where he met Charles Darwin. He left the navy in 1836 and, after pastoral experience in Victoria, joined the Australian Agricultural Company at Port Stephens, became its manager in 1854, and remained in this service until his death. He was nominated a member of the legislative council of New South Wales in 1880 and died on 5 August 1904.
The Empire, Sydney, 27 February 1856; Gentleman's Magazine, 1856, vol. II; Burke's Colonial Gentry, 1891, vol. I; P. P. King, Narrative of a Survey of the Intertropical and Western Coasts of Australia; Historical Records of Australia, ser. I, vols. IX to XI, XIV, XVI, XVIII to XX, XXII, XXIV, XXV; The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 August 1904; Mrs Marnie Bassett, The Governor's Lady.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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