The name Boaty McBoatface grabbed headlines across the world and inspired countless memes and late-night comics’ jokes when it won the poll organized by the U.K.’s Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC). The research organization staged a contest to name their new $284 million polar research vessel. They specified that entries should reflect the ship’s mission and celebrate British naval history. Any anticipation of dignified and serious entries was soon dashed by that famous dry British humor.
RRS Boaty McBoatface was not even the most outrageous entry, but with 120,000 votes, it was the most popular. Other, equally droll suggestions included RRS It’s Bloody Cold Here; RRS I Like Big Boats and I Cannot Lie; RRS What Iceberg?; RRS Boatsaurus Rex; RRS Boat, James Boat; and RRS Titanic II the Revenge.
British lawmakers summoned several witnesses to Parliament to account for the choice of Boaty McBoatface, and after serious deliberation that decision was overturned. The news was broken in April with a brief press release from U.K. Science Minister Jo Johnson: “We are proud to announce that the selected name of the new £200m Polar Research Ship, launching in 2019 is the RRS Sir David Attenborough. It is a fitting tribute to a man who has done so much to explain the wonders of the natural world to all of us. The name Boaty McBoatface will live on as the name of the ship’s high-tech remotely operated sub-sea vehicle. We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who suggested names, shared tweets and got involved with the #NameOurShip campaign.” He also announced that the British government will be investing over $1 million in a new Polar Explorer program to engage young people and inspire the scientists, engineers, and explorers of the future.
Whatever its name, the ship’s mission is vitally important to the study and control of global warming. This state-of-the-art polar research ship will explore the world’s oceans and put Britain at the forefront of efforts to preserve our precious marine environment. The drone sub-sea vehicle Boaty McBoatface will support the research crew and the polar science education program that will bring their work to life. The $284 million ship, the biggest commercial shipbuilding contract in Britain, is due to set sail in 2019. It will provide the UK with the most advanced floating research fleet in the world, conducting vital research into the world’s oceans and how to address climate change.
On hearing the announcement, broadcaster and renown naturalist Sir David Attenborough said, “I am truly honored by this naming decision and hope that everyone who suggested a name will feel just as inspired to follow the ship’s progress as it explores our polar regions. I have been privileged to explore the world’s deepest oceans alongside amazing teams of researchers, and with this new polar research ship they will be able to go further and discover more than ever before.” Former BBC radio host James Hand, who suggested the name Boaty McBoatface, later said he voted to name the ship after Attenborough.