WARBURTON, Peter Egerton (1813-1889)


WARBURTON, Peter Egerton (1813-1889)
explorer
the fourth son of the Rev. Rowland Egerton Warburton, was born at Northwich, Cheshire, England, on 15 August 1813. Educated largely in France he joined the royal navy in 1826. In 1829 he entered the East India Company's military college at Addiscombe, and in 1834 went to India. He remained in the East India Company's service until 1853, when he retired with the rank of major and emigrated to Western Australia. After a short stay he went to Adelaide, and at the close of the year was appointed commissioner of police. About this time he did some exploring in the country west of Lake Torrens, and made an unfavourable report on it. In the following year he was able to determine the size and shape of Lake Torrens. Warburton carried out his duties as commissioner of police until 1867, and two years later became colonel commandant of the South Australian volunteer forces. In September 1872 he started on an exploring expedition and reached Alice Springs on 21 December. There he decided that it would be unwise to proceed farther until April, and sent his second in command back to Adelaide for further supplies. On 15 April 1873 the party of seven including two Afghans and one aborigine started with four riding, 12 baggage, and one spare camel. They followed the telegraph line to Bart's Creek before striking to the west. Passing through good country in May, they crossed the Western Australian border on 5 June, found themselves in barren country, and for several weeks spent their time in an unceasing search for native wells. Warburton did most of his travelling westward by night, and was unable to carefully observe the country. They were practically starving when a small waterhole was reached on 9 October. Their way was then directed to the source of the Oakover River and only the good bushmanship of one of the party, J. W. Lewis, and the aborigine, saved the whole party from perishing. On 5 December a tributary of the Oakover was found and, taking their camels for food, the expedition made its way slowly towards the coast. Lewis eventually went ahead and reached a cattle station, from which help was sent to the remainder of the party which was by now practically exhausted. The station was reached on it January 1874 and Roebourne on 26 January. Warburton received a grant of £1000 from the South Australian parliament with £500 for the party. An account of the expedition, Journey across the Western Interior of Australia, was published in 1875, and Warburton was created C.M.G. in the same year and awarded the Royal Geographical Society's medal. He remained in South Australia until his death on 5 November 1889. He married in 1838 Alicia Mant and a son, Richard Egerton Warburton, was with him on his journey across Australia.
Coming to Australia when past 40 years of age Warburton had not the outback experience that is necessary for exploration work. Though he succeeded in crossing Australia from Adelaide to the north-west coast it was fortunate that the whole party did not perish, and Warburton can scarcely be ranked among the greater Australian explorers.
J. H. Heaton. Australian Dictionary of Dates; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography; E. Favenc, The Explorers of Australia; P. E. Warburton, Journey Across the Western Interior of Australia; The South Australian Register, 6 November 1889.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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