NATURALIST’S NAMESAKE LAUNCHED
The UK’S new polar explorer – the £200m RRS David Attenborough – slipped without fuss into the River Mersey earlier this year, with the man she was named after doing the honours. The 92-year-old Sir David Attenborough says having the 129m ship named after him is the greatest of honours.
When plans for its construction were first announced, the British public was invited – in an online poll – to vote on a name, and famously (irreverently?) opted for Boaty Mcboatface. But authorities demurred.
Says British Antarctic Survey director Jane Francis: “This is a serious science ship that required the name of a serious scientist. Its name recognises all the love and esteem the British public holds for Sir David Attenborough.”
Still, onboard is a yellow submarine – which is named Boaty Mcboatface. It can dive to depths of 4,000m to gather data about the temperature/salinity of the ocean and currents.
The ship’s mission includes investigating whether warm waters are melting the glaciers and ice shelves of the Antarctic from below. She’s equipped with a unique ‘moon pool’, a 4m2 vertical shaft through the ship. This enables scientists to access the open ocean even when the ship is surrounded by ice.
The largest commercial ship built in Britain in some 30 years, the RRS David Attenborough will replace the James Clark Ross and the Shackleton, which between them have almost 50 years’ service in support of UK polar science.