'Boaty McBoatface' polar ship named after Attenborough

Image source, NERC

The UK's new polar research ship is to be named RRS Sir David Attenborough, despite the title "Boaty McBoatface" previously topping a public vote.

A website inviting name suggestions had attracted huge interest, with Boaty McBoatface the runaway favourite.

But Science Minister Jo Johnson said there were "more suitable" names.

On Friday, days before Sir David turns 90, it was announced that the £200m vessel will be named after the world-renowned naturalist and broadcaster.

Sir David said he was "truly honoured" by the decision.

While the polar ship itself will not be named Boaty McBoatface, one of its remotely operated sub-sea vehicles will be named Boaty in recognition of the vote.

James Hand, who first suggested the flippant moniker, said he was pleased the name would "live on".

In a tweet, he also said that RRS Sir David Attenborough, which came fourth in the public vote, was a "fitting and excellent choice".

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Sir David Attenborough said he was "truly honoured" by the decision

The science minister said: "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."

The ship would "put Britain at the forefront of efforts to preserve our precious marine environment," Mr Johnson added.

Prof Jane Francis is the director of the British Antarctic Survey, one of the principal users of the ship. She told BBC News: "We are delighted with the name RRS David Attenborough. He is an important public figure who has engaged and inspired the public over generations with his passion for the natural world.

"This new ship will be at the forefront of polar science and deliver world-leading capability for UK research in both Antarctica and the Arctic."

Image source, Alex Therrien
Image caption,
The man who first suggested naming the ship Boaty McBoatface praised the name that was picked

Sir David said that he hoped "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."

Image source, Not Specified

Analysis - BBC science correspondent Jonathan Amos

Image source, NERC
Image caption,
The keel of the new ship is expected to be laid in October

It's the diplomatic choice.

No, Sir David's name wasn't at the top of the public list, but it was certainly among the favourites.

It's a fitting tribute to a man who has done so much to explain the wonders of the natural world to all of us.

"Boaty" lives on as the name of one of the ship's remotely operated submarines.

But why couldn't the main vessel itself have carried the name? Here's one reason: imagine the ship were to get into trouble at some point in the future.

Imagine the headlines.

Remember, the places it will work are extremely hostile; they are dangerous.

But whatever your thoughts about Boaty and its suitability, it is the capability that the RRS Sir David Attenborough represents which ultimately matters.

UK science is set to get the most advanced polar research ship in the world.

Media caption,
BBC Rewind looks back at some of Sir David Attenborough's best moments
Image source, Not Specified

Meanwhile, members of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee have said they want to discuss whether the public engagement project around the search for a name has been a success or a failure.

The chief executive of the Natural Environment Research Council (Nerc), which was behind the vote, has been called before the Commons committee to give evidence on 10 May.

Nicola Blackwood, committee chair, questioned whether the process had been a "triumph of public engagement or a PR disaster".

Image source, NERC
Image caption,
RRS David Attenborough was the fourth most popular choice of name

The RRS Sir David Attenborough is being built on Merseyside and is due to set sail in 2019.

It will be the most advanced polar research ship in the world, investigating the oceans in a multitude of ways and probing how best to address climate change.

The ship will also enable scientists and technicians to stay at sea for longer and study the polar environments during the winter months.

The Boaty sub-sea vehicle will be dispatched from RRS Sir David Attenborough to allow the ship's research crew to collect data and samples from the deepest waters of the Arctic and Antarctic.

An alternative name of "Subby McSubface" is already being suggested on social media.

Image source, NERC
Image caption,
The name "Boaty" will be used for a remotely controlled submersible