Phillip Parker King

Phillip Parker King

Phillip Parker King
Born Phillip Parker King
(1791-12-13)13 December 1791
Norfolk Island
Died 26 February 1856(1856-02-26) (aged 64)
North Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation Naval Officer
Known for Exploration of the coastline of Australia
Title Admiral

Admiral Phillip Parker King, FRS, RN (13 December 1791 – 26 February 1856) was an early explorer of the Australian and Patagonian coasts.[1]

Early life and education

King was born on Norfolk Island, to Philip Gidley King and Anna Josepha King née Coombe, and named after his father's mentor, Arthur Phillip, which explains the difference in spelling of his and his father's first names. King was sent to England for education in 1796, and he joined the Royal Naval Academy, Portsmouth, in 1802. King entered the Royal Navy in 1807, where he was commissioned lieutenant in 1814.

Expeditions in Australia

King was assigned to survey the parts of the Australian coast not already examined by Matthew Flinders, and made four voyages between December 1817 and April 1822. Amongst the 19-man crew were Allan Cunningham (botanist), John Septimus Roe and the aborigine Bungaree. The first three trips were in the 76 tonne cutter HMS Mermaid, but the vessel was grounded in 1820.

The Admiralty instructed King to discover whether there was any river 'likely to lead to an interior navigation into this great continent'. The Colonial Office had given instructions to collect information about topography, fauna, timber, minerals, climate, and the natives and the prospects of developing trade with them. From February to June 1818, the coast was surveyed as far as Van Diemen Gulf and there were many meetings with Aboriginals and Malay proas. In June the Mermaid visited Timor and then returned to Sydney, arriving on 29 July. Next December and January King surveyed the recently discovered Macquarie Harbour in Van Diemen's Land and sailed in May 1819 for Torres Strait. King took John Oxley as far as the Hastings River, and continued on to survey the coast between Cape Wessel and Admiralty Gulf. King returned to Sydney on 12 January 1820.

Voyages of King

King's fourth voyage was undertaken in the 154 tonne sloop HMS Bathurst. The ship headed north, through Torres Strait and to the north-west coast of the continent. Further survey of the west coast was made after a visit to Mauritius. Valuable contributions had been made to the exploration of Australia.

Expeditions to South America

King had been promoted to commander in July 1821, and in April 1823 returned to England. He subsequently commanded the survey vessel HMS Adventure, and in company with HMS Beagle, spent five years surveying the complex coasts around the Strait of Magellan (1826-1830). At the same time, King put together a unique collection of Patagonian objects from local tribes living in Tierra del Fuego, which was later donated to the British Museum in London.[2][3][4] In addition to written records, King also lent his hand to drawing and watercolour painting,[5] some of which were later used to illustrate his accounts.[6] The result was presented at a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society in 1831. His eldest son, also named Philip Gidley King,[7] accompanied his father and continued as a midshipman in HMS Beagle (1832 - 1836) on the continuing survey of Patagonia under Robert FitzRoy, in the company of Charles Darwin. King owned a property at Dunheved in the western suburbs of Sydney where he entertained Charles Darwin on Darwin's last night in Sydney in January 1836.

Later life

The funeral of Rear Admiral Phillip Parker King, 1856, painted by Conrad Martens

In February 1839, King was appointed to the New South Wales Legislative Council, and in April the same year, was appointed resident commissioner of the Australian Agricultural Company, a position he held for ten years. In 1855 King was promoted to Rear admiral on the retired list. King was a Fellow of the Royal Society.


King was honoured on the 2-pound postage stamp of Australia in 1963.

The Australian native orchid Dendrobium kingianum has been named after him.

King Sound in the Kimberley region of Western Australia was also named after King who explored the region in 1818.

Six species of reptiles are named in his honor: Chlamydosaurus kingii, Anops kingii, Egernia kingii, Elgaria kingii, Liolaemus kingii, and Disteira kingii.[8]


See also


  1. "King, Phillip Parker (1791–1856)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. 2. Canberra: Australian National University. 1967. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  2. British Museum Collection
  3. British Museum Collection
  4. British Museum Collection
  5. "Drawing: [untitled] watercolour: drawings: Montevideo; and [untitled] (watercolour)". Cambridge Digital Library. Retrieved 24 November 2014. External link in |website= (help)
  6. "Phillip Parker King (1791-1856)". Australian Museum. Retrieved 24 November 2014. External link in |website= (help)
  7. O'Grady, Frank (1974). "King, Philip Gidley (1817–1904)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. 5. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  8. Beolens B, Watkins M, Grayson M. 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. ("King, P.P.", p. 141).


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