The British Antarctic Survey's (BAS) state-of-the-art polar research ship Boaty McBoatface was launched on Saturday July 14 at the Cammell Laird shipyards on the River Mersey. Okay, its name is actually Royal Research Ship (RRS) Sir David Attenborough after the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) rejected the McBoatface moniker after it won a public vote in 2016, but it's still the largest civilian ship to be built in Britain in 30 years.
In front of an audience of shipyard workers, engineers, scientists, and maritime industry experts, the Attenborough slid into the water at 12:20 pm BST as Sir David himself and BAS Director Professor Dame Jane Francis pressed a large, green launch button that sent the bright red hull number 1390 down the ramp. It was then collected by three tugs and warped to a wet basin at Cammell Laird where its superstructure and equipment will be installed in the run up to its entering service next year.
Named after the famed nature documentary maker, RRS Sir Richard Attenborough is a floating polar laboratory that replaces the RRS Ernest Shackleton and RRS James Clarke Ross. The new ship will carry 60 scientists and support staff and operate under the BAS in both the Antarctic and the Arctic. It's 129.6 m (425 ft) long, 25 m (82 ft) abeam, has a draft of 7.5 m (24 ft), displaces 12,790 tonnes (14,098 tons), and has 4,200 m³ (148,000 ft³) of cargo space.
In 2016, the BAS invited the public to vote on the name for the £200-million (US$284-million) vessel. While expecting something suitably dignified to win, the poll ended in a surprise victory for Boaty McBoatface with 124,109 votes. The NERC then exercised its veto and chose its present name instead.
"Britain began exploring the Antarctic over a century ago when it seemed to be an empty wilderness of little importance to the world as a whole," says Sir David. "Now we recognize that what happens at the Poles is of the greatest importance to everyone, everywhere. The UK and the British Antarctic Survey have been making discoveries in both regions that enable us to better understand these global processes and this wonderful new research ship will enable British scientists to continue their crucial work in both the Arctic and Antarctic for decades to come."
The time lapse video below shows RSS Sir David Attenborough being moved into position for launching.
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