£200 million polar research ship named in honour of Sir David Attenborough

6 May 2016

NERC's new £200 million state-of-the-art polar research ship is to be named after world-renowned naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough.

Artist's impression of RRS Sir David Attenborough

Following a call for suggestions that sparked global interest, Royal Research Ship Sir David Attenborough has been selected as a name that captures the ship's scientific mission and celebrates the broadcaster's contribution to natural science. The name was revealed today by Science Minister Jo Johnson, who also announced the government will be investing up to £1 million in a new Polar Explorer programme to engage young people and inspire the scientists, engineers and explorers of the future.

The decision to name the ship after Sir David Attenborough comes only days before Sir David's 90th birthday and is in recognition of his legacy in British broadcasting, inspiring a love of the natural world over generations. In a career spanning six decades, Sir David has presented critically acclaimed wildlife documentaries on the BBC including The Blue Planet, Planet Earth and Frozen Planet.

Reflecting the global interest that the campaign drew, Science Minister Jo Johnson has also confirmed the popular suggestion Boaty McBoatface will live on as the name of one of the high-tech remotely operated sub-sea vehicles. The 'Boaty' sub-sea vehicle will be dispatched from RRS Sir David Attenborough to allow the ship's research crew to collect data and samples from the deepest waters of the Arctic and Antarctic.

NERC Chief Executive Duncan Wingham said:

"The NERC Name Our Ship campaign has engaged the public with the ship's mission on a huge scale and we are very grateful for the support and enthusiasm shown by the public in contributing to naming for our new research vessel the RSS Sir David Attenborough. The new Polar Explorer programme will continue to inspire future generations in this important area of environmental science. We are also very happy to recognise the overall popular choice through naming one of the ship's robotic vehicles Boaty McBoatface."

Universities & Science Minister Jo Johnson said:

"The public provided some truly inspirational and creative names, and 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.

This vessel will carry the Attenborough name for decades to come, as it fulfils its mission to explore the oceans and put Britain at the forefront of efforts to preserve our precious marine environment.

The ship has captured the imaginations of millions, which is why we're ensuring that the Boaty name lives on through the sub-sea vehicle that will support the research crew, and the polar science education programme that will bring their work to life."

Sir David Attenborough said:

"I am truly honoured by this naming decision and hope that everyone who suggested a name will feel just as inspired to follow the ship's progress as it explores our polar regions. I have been privileged to explore the world's deepest oceans alongside amazing teams of researchers, and with this new polar research ship they will be able to go further and discover more than ever before."

The £200 million ship, being built in the UK on Merseyside, is due to set sail in 2019. Tonne for tonne, it will provide the UK with the most advanced floating research fleet in the world, conducting vital research into the world's oceans and how we address climate change.

As the biggest commercial shipbuilding contract in Britain, the construction of RRS Sir David Attenborough is supporting 400 jobs and 60 apprenticeships.


Further information

Mary Goodchild
NERC media office
01793 411939
07710 147485


Notes

1. High resolution images are available of the polar research vessel (2·4MB) and of a remotely operated sub-sea vehicle (8·9MB).