from the Guardian, 20th March 2016
RRS Boaty McBoatface leads in poll to name polar research vessel
The good news for the Natural Environment Research Council’s decision to crowd-search a name for its latest polar research vessel is unprecedented public engagement in a sometimes niche area of scientific study. The bad news? Sailing due south in a vessel that sounds like it was christened by a five-year-old who has drunk three cartons of Capri-Sun.
Just a day after the NERC launched its poll to name the £200m vessel – which will first head to Antarctica in 2019 – the clear favourite was RRS Boaty McBoatface, with well over 18,000 votes. The RRS stands for royal research ship. Coming a distant second was the considerably more serious-minded suggestion of naming the vessel after Henry Worsley, the British explorer who died in January near the end of his attempt to become the first person to cross the Antarctic unaided.
The government-funded ship will be built at the Cammell Laird shipyard on Merseyside and will carry out a variety of research trips to both Antarctica and the Arctic. The NERC – which was wise enough to ask that people “suggest” names, giving it future wriggle room – asked for ideas to be inspirational. Some undoubtedly were, with its website, which kept crashing on Sunday under the weight of traffic, showing dozens of serious suggestions connected to inspiring figures such as Sir David Attenborough, or names such as Polar Dream. But the bulk of entries were distinctly less sober. Aside from the leading contender, ideas included Its Bloody Cold Here, What Iceberg, Captain Haddock, Big Shipinnit, Science!!! and Big Metal Floaty Thingy-thing. A slightly more personal suggestion came from one Sandeep Korotana, who modestly put forward the idea of RRS Sandeep Korotana.
When the web traffic dies down, other suggestions can be made by 16 April at http://nameourship.nerc.ac.uk. Alison Robinson of the NERC said the organisation was thrilled at the “enthusiasm and creativity” of the naming process, while declining to offer an opinion on the merits of Boaty McBoatface. She added: “We’ve had thousands of suggestions made on the website since we officially launched. Many of them reflect the importance of the ship’s scientific role by celebrating great British explorers and scientists. Others are more unusual but we’re pleased that people are embracing the idea in a spirit of fun.”
The final decision, she said, would be made by a panel later this year.