A research vessel named after the naturalist and broadcaster has visited London – carrying with it a submersible mischievously named by a public vote
29 October 2021
The UK’s newest polar exploration vessel, the RRS Sir David Attenborough, sailed up the Thames into London on Wednesday, docking near the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. The ship will remain moored there for three days, as part of the Ice Worlds festival.
In September 2019, the ship was officially named the RRS Sir David Attenborough after the presenter and naturalist, but not before some controversy – a public vote to choose a name, held in 2016, selected Boaty McBoatface. This was ultimately overruled by UK ministers, but the name now lives on, applied to one of the onboard research submersibles.
“I can’t imagine a greater compliment,” David Attenborough said in a speech on board the ship in Greenwich. “I know that the findings made on this ship in the next few years will be of the greatest value and importance to the welfare of the world. Let us listen to the science. Bon voyage.”
The 129-metre icebreaker is operated by the British Antarctic Survey and is one of the most advanced polar research vessels in the world. It is built to accommodate a multidisciplinary scientific team and will embark on its first scientific mission to the Antarctic in November.
“Tackling issues around climate change, around food security, around biodiversity. They’re not single disciplines,” says Sophie Fielding, a biological oceanographer at the British Antarctic Survey, and one of the scientists who helped choose the equipment onboard.
“That led to some real novel features,” she says, including clean sampling conditions for the chemists and a 40-metre giant piston corer for collecting larger geological samples. “We can go back further into our past to get a better understanding of what was happening in our climate in the past,” says Fielding.
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