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Dublin: -1 °C Saturday 18 January, 2020

Boaty McBoatface no more: The renamed RSS Sir David Attenborough to launch maiden voyage

The name of the polar research boat was originally subject to a public vote, but the most popular choice proved controversial.

Source: British Antarctic Survey/YouTube

BRITAIN’S BRAND NEW polar research ship is ready to set sail this weekend, but it won’t be called Boaty McBoatface.

The £200 million (€226 million) ship – renamed the RRS David Attenborough – will slide into the River Mersey at Birkenhead on Saturday, replacing the James Clark Ross and the Shackleton which had been in service for almost 50 years.

The boat was subject to a great deal of furore in 2016 when, after it was put to a public vote, a very unusual name was chosen.

An online poll from the Natural Environment Research Council asked members of the public to choose a name for its new ship.

More than 120,000 people voted for Boaty McBoatface – several times more than supported the second most popular name.

Other suggestions included “Clifford The Big Red Boat” and “Usain Boat”.

Announcing the switch to naming it after Attenborough, Science Minister Jo Johnson said the public had provided “some truly inspirational and creative names”.

“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,” Johnson added.

The ship is the largest to be built in the UK in the past three decades.

David Williams, from the Cammell Laird yard just outside Liverpool, told the BBC: “She’s not a huge supertanker but she is a large ship at 128.9m and around 10,000 tonnes on the day – so, there will be a bit of a splash, certainly off the stern.”

Assistant ship manager Claire Biggar added: “We’ve definitely risen to the challenge, as many people will realise, especially when they see how advanced she is right now, given the timeframe since we first started building her.

She’s structurally complete and we’re well on our way with the outfitting. For the company, this is an amazing achievement.

The finishing touches have been put on the ship this week, and an event will be held at the launch this weekend, with the 92-year-old Sir David Attenborough set to be the guest of honour.

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Sean Murray

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