'Boaty McBoatface' Vessel Named for David Attenborough

The RRS Sir David Attenborough is scheduled to set sail in 2019.
The RRS Sir David Attenborough is scheduled to set sail in 2019. (Image credit: Cammell Laird / BAS)

A research vessel meant to ply the polar seas has been graced with the name Sir David Attenborough, just days before the famed naturalist turns 90, U.K. Science Minister Jo Johnson announced today (May 6).

In March, the U.K.'s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) put out a call for the public to submit and vote for names for their forthcoming polar research vessel, which received funding of 200 million British pounds (about $289 million) from the U.K. Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in April 2014. It wasn't long before the public spoke, with the comical moniker "Boaty McBoatface" soaring to the top slot. But the poll, which ended April 16, was not the be-all and end-all for the research vessel's identity, as the NERC had the final say in what name to slap on the boat.

"The public provided some truly inspirational and creative names, and while it was a difficult decision, I'm delighted that our state-of-the-art polar research ship will be named after one of the nation's most cherished broadcasters and natural scientists," Johnson said in a statement. "This vessel will carry the Attenborough name for decades to come, as it fulfills its mission to explore the oceans and put Britain at the forefront of efforts to preserve our precious marine environment." [6 Spectacular Species Named for David Attenborough]

Attenborough spoke beaming words of the ship's label.

"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," Attenborough said in the statement. "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."

The ship is being built in Merseyside, England. Expected to set sail in 2019, the Royal Research Ship (RRS) Sir David Attenborough will be able to explore both the Arctic and Antarctic oceans. It will be operated by the British Antarctic Survey, which currently supports two polar research vessels: the RRS James Clark Ross and the RRS Ernest Shackleton.

As for Boaty McBoatface?

The hugely popular name will live on, undersea. The council decided to name one of the new vessel's remotely operated vehicles "Boaty." The subsea vehicle will be dispatched from the RRS Sir David Attenborough so that it can explore the deepest parts of the Arctic and Antarctic, according to the NERC.

"The ship has captured the imaginations of millions, which is why we're ensuring that the Boaty name lives on through the subsea vehicle that will support the research crew, and the polar science education program that will bring their work to life," Johnson said.

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Jeanna Bryner
Live Science Editor-in-Chief

Jeanna served as editor-in-chief of Live Science. Previously, she was an assistant editor at Scholastic's Science World magazine. Jeanna has an English degree from Salisbury University, a master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental sciences from the University of Maryland, and a graduate science journalism degree from New York University. She has worked as a biologist in Florida, where she monitored wetlands and did field surveys for endangered species. She also received an ocean sciences journalism fellowship from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.