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Remains of explorer credited with naming Australia found during London dig

As commander of H.M.S. Investigator, Flinders was the person to circumnavigate the continent.

Flinders. Captain Matthew Flinders Source: HS2 Project

THE REMAINS OF Matthew Flinders, the explorer who became the first person to circumnavigate Australia, have been identified at a historic burial ground in London. 

Archaeologists working on the HS2 railway project in the burial ground beside Euston station confirmed that Flinders’ remains had been identified during the dig, which began in October. 

As commander of H.M.S. Investigator, Flinders is widely credited with naming the continent and died in 1814. 

His surname is associated with several places in Australia today, including Flinders Station in Melbourne, Flinders Ranges in South Australia and the town of Flinders in Victoria.

His remains were thought to have been long-lost when the station expanded into part of the burial ground in the 1840s but a recently discovered coffin shows that he was in fact buried there on 23 July 1814.

For years there was an urban myth that Captain Flinders was buried under platform 15.

The dig, one of more than 60 archaeological sites that have emerged during the construction of the new high-speed rail link from London to Birmingham, has already unearthed 1,200 skeletons from St James Gardens. 

The Gardens, a park situated next to the Euston station in central London, was a cemetery between 1788 and around 1853.

There were originally 60,000 people buried at St James, though a section of the cemetery was cleared for the station’s expansion. 

Flinders Find. HS2 archaeologists working on the London dig. Source: HS2 Project/Youtube.com

As well as explorer Flinders, the burial ground contains the remains of Bill “the Black Terror” Richmond, a famed American bare knuckle boxer who died in 1829 and James Christie, the founder of Christie’s auction house. 

Commenting on the find, Helen Wass, HS2’s Head of Heritage described the identification as “an incredible opportunity for us to learn more about the life and remarkable achievements of this British navigator, hydrographer and scientist.”

“Captain Matthew Flinders put Australia on the map due to his tenacity and expertise as a navigator and explorer.”

“We’ll now be able to study his skeleton to see whether life at sea left its mark and what more we can learn about him.”

Flinders’ remains will be reinterred with fellow residents of St James’s Gardens at a yet-to-be announced location. 

The state-funded HS2 rail project is controversial in Britain due to its costs and the fact it will pass through countryside, forcing hundreds of homes to be knocked down.

The initial phase from London to the central English city of Birmingham is estimated to cost £24 billion (€28 billion) and is due to be completed by 2026.

With reporting from © AFP 2019

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