BIRKENHEAD, England (Reuters) - Prince William and his wife Kate formally named a new British polar research ship “Sir David Attenborough” on Thursday, a more dignified title than the public’s choice of “Boaty McBoatface”.
The humorous moniker was the most popular suggestion in an online poll that went viral in 2016, but the government opted to honour the naturalist and broadcaster Attenborough, who has become a campaigner on climate issues in his 10th decade.
As a consolation prize, the name Boaty McBoatface was instead given to a small, yellow autonomous underwater vehicle, capable of travelling long distances under the sea ice to collect data, which forms part of the ship’s research equipment.
The ceremony to formally name the Sir David Attenborough took place at a shipyard in Birkenhead, northwest England, where the giant ice-breaker was built.
Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, pressed a yellow button to activate a lever that smashed a bottle of champagne on the ship’s hull, in accordance with maritime tradition.
Her husband Prince William, grandson of Queen Elizabeth, said in a speech that the state-of-the-art vessel would help expand global knowledge of the polar oceans and the impact of climate change on them.
“As last week’s climate protests the world over, and yesterday’s report on our oceans and frozen regions demonstrated, there has never been a more important moment for this ship to get to work,” he said.
Ushering Attenborough to speak just after him, William made clear his preference for the official name.
“It is my immense privilege and relief to welcome Sir David Attenborough, rather than Boaty McBoatface, to speak,” he said.
The 93-year-old naturalist said it was the greatest possible honour to have the ship named after him.
“Great problems require great research and facts to solve them, and that’s what this astonishing ship will be here to do,” he said.
Operated by the publicly funded British Antarctic Survey, the Sir David Attenborough is 129 metres long and can break ice up to one metre thick at three knots (5.6 km per hour). It requires a crew of about 30, and can carry up to 60 scientists and support staff.
It will conduct ice trials in the northern hemisphere from March 2020, and is scheduled to enter full service from October next year.
Reporting by Phil Noble in Birkenhead and Estelle Shirbon in London; editing by Stephen Addison