IN a laudable bid to encourage public participation and interest in the production of a new polar research ship, a public call for ideas for its name was introduced by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).
The response exceeded all expectations with more than 7,000 different names being suggested, but what wasn’t expected was the way in which the public coalesced and the winning name by a long stretch was ‘Boaty McBoatface’ which caught everyone except 124,000 naughty members of the British public by surprise.
In the event, the Science Minister Jo Johnson formally announced that the £200 million (€260 million) research vessel would actually be named more appropriately the Royal Research Ship Sir David Attenborough after the naturalist and broadcaster who has just celebrated his 90th birthday.
As a sop to all of those who voted for the titular winner and showing a little bit of humour, it was also announced that one of the underwater vehicles of the research vessel will be given the Boaty McBoatface soubriquet, although perhaps it might have been more appropriate to call it Suby McSubface!
In many ways it is certainly more dignified to honour the man who has spent so many years exploring the natural world including Antarctica and it would no doubt be easier to explain to fellow polar researchers and members of the foreign press who Sir David Attenborough is.
Whilst announcing the naming, the Minister also confirmed that the British government intended to invest a further £1 million (€1.3 million) into a ‘Polar Explorer’ programme intended to appeal to young people and hopefully encourage them to become engineers, explorers and scientists of the future.
As the vessel is only now being built on Merseyside, it will take some considerable time to be completed and undertake trials before being launched, possibly in 2019 and it is to be hoped that Sir David will still be sufficiently hale and hearty to attend its launch.
Britain still continues to be one of the major forces in Polar research although its recently completed and futuristic Halley Base VI in Antarctica may possibly be endangered as a crack in the snow and ice on which it is sited has recently expanded dramatically and may result in the Base floating away.