Peter Warner, who became famous when he and his crew discovered six shipwrecked boys on an uninhabited South Pacific island, died in Australia on April 13 after being swept overboard by a rogue wave. He had been sailing near the mouth of the Richmond River, in Ballina, New South Wales. A companion who had also been washed overboard pulled Mr. Warner to shore but was unable to revive him.
Mr. Warner became a celebrity in Australia and Tonga in 1966 when he accidentally discovered six Tongan boys who had been missing for 15 months. The boys had long been presumed dead.
One hundred miles south of Tonga, Mr. Warner had been scanning an uninhabited island with his binoculars when he spotted a burned spot that struck him as peculiar. As he and his crew approached to investigate, six naked teenage boys rushed into the water toward them. The boarding school students had been trying to signal passing ships for more than a year after stealing a boat for a joy ride, running into a storm and landing on the abandoned island.
They had managed to survive through sheer ingenuity, discipline and a little luck. The island had once been inhabited, and they eventually discovered an abandoned village where they found a machete, a flock of chickens and domesticated plants.
Mr. Warner returned the boys to Tonga, where he was greeted as a hero. He eventually moved there with his family from Australia. He lived on Tonga for 30 years and employed the six ‘boys’ as crew aboard his fishing boat.
Eight years after the rescue, Warner and the Tongans spied four marooned sailors on a small island 300 miles east of Australia. The sailors had been stranded there for 46 days.
This New York Times obituary includes more details of Mr. Warner’s life, much of which was spent at sea, and included taking line honors three times at the annual Sydney-Hobart Race.