Phillip Parker King
P. P. King
As a native born son P. P. King played as important a role in the development of New South Wales as his father Governor Philip Gidley King. He was born on Norfolk Island in 1791 to Philip Gidley King's legal wife Anna. The family returned to England in 1796 and when his father and mother returned to New South Wales P.P. King stayed in England and in 1807 entered the Royal Navy. With the establishment of peace in 1817 the navy decided to survey the western coast of Australia and appointed King, now a lieutenant, to the task. He arrived in Sydney in September 1817 and by December he had embarked on an especially fitted out cutter, the 'Mermaid', to the North West Cape where the survey was to begin. Returning to Sydney in 1820 for repairs the ship was completely submerged in attempt to rid the decks of both cockroaches and rats. In 1821, after being promoted to commander, King made a survey of northern Australia in the Bathurst. He briefly returned to Sydney in April 1822 before being recalled to England where he became the English representative of the Australian Agricultural Co. and becoming a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
In 1826 he published Narrative of a Survey of the Intertropical and Western Coasts of Australia. Performed Between the Years 1818-1822, partly illustrated with his own sketches. The wanderlust apparently continued to beckon King as in May of the same year he took command of H.M.S. Adventure which sailed with H.M.S. Beagle (whose company included Charles Darwin) to chart the coasts of Peru, Chile and Patagonia. He returned in 1830 in poor health but now promoted to captain, and a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council, to which he was appointed in absentia.
King returned to New South Wales in 1832 but had to wait until 1839 to get a seat on the Council, ironically he was soon after appointed resident commissioner of the Australian Agricultural Co. (AAC) and had to resign this seat. King continued to do valuable survey work in the colony recording his observations in the Murrumbidgee, visiting New Zealand and Norfolk Island in the Pelorus, and surveying the area around Parramatta, Newcastle and Port Stephens. Over the same period the AAC tried to establish monopolies on coal and sell wool but its main investments were tied up in land grants and these were eventually freed up for sale between 1845 and 1847. King was a well respected figure by this time and when the Parramatta Observatory was scheduled for closure it was done so on the basis of King's report.
By 1854 sickness had begun to dog King and after being promoted to rear admiral on the retired list in 1855, he died after walking home one evening in February 1856. His widow died at Ashfield, Sydney, 19 December 1874.
Geoff Barker, Assistant Curator, December 2009
'King, Phillip Parker (1791 - 1856)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, Melbourne University Press, 1967, 61-64
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