The remains of explorer Captain Matthew Flinders have been identified by archaeologists working on the excavation of a high speed rail site in St James’s burial ground near Euston Station, London.
Captain Flinders was the first European to circumnavigate Australia, sailing the HMS Investigator around the country with Englishman George Bass and Indigenous man Bungaree between July 1802 and May 1803. He is also credited with giving Australia its name. Although he was not the first to use the term, his work popularised its use. Flinders played a particularly important role in the founding of South Australia, with his mapping of the coastline paving the way for future European settlement.
While it was known that Captain Flinders was among the thousands of people buried at the site, it was unclear whether his body or others would be able to be identified. Following the expansion of Euston station in the 1840s, his headstone was removed and it was thought that his remains had been lost. For a long time, there was an urban myth that he was buried under platform 15.
The discovery so early in the dig has thrilled archaeologists who were not confident they would find Captain Flinders among the 40,000 people interred on the site. They were able to identify his remains by the lead breast plate placed on top of his coffin.
At the bicentenary of his death in 2014, a memorial statue of Captain Flinders was unveiled by the Duke of Cambridge at Australia House and later installed at Euston Station. Two more casting of the statue by British sculptor Mark Richards stand in South Australia in Port Lincoln and outside the Flinders University campus at Tonsley.