Shortly after noon on July 14, the new polar research ship Sir David Attenborough was launched at the Birkenhead shipyard of Cammell Laird for operation by the British Antarctic Survey.
The Survey (BAS), of Cambridge, Cammell Laird built the 10,000 tonnes ship “under the biggest merchant shipbuilding contract in Britain for 30 years.”
After launching into the River Mersey, the ship was towed to the Cammell Laird Wet Basin where she will be fitted out. The 128m long ship is due to run trials in the Arctic next Spring and make her maiden voyage to Antarctica in the 2019-20 season, where she will be used to resupply BAS bases and carry out scientific research.
The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) had asked the British public to come up with the name for the new ship. An online poll had resulted in a resounding win for the name, ‘Boaty McBoatface’, which drew nearly 125,000 votes. However, the Council chose Sir David Attenborough but Boaty will be the name of one of the ship’s remotely operated sub-sea vehicles.
There will be a formal naming ceremony when the Sir David Attenborough is completed. Instead, the button to launch the Royal Research Ship was pressed by the world-renowned naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough and Professor Dame Jane Francis, director of the BAS, which is part of the NERC, a section of UK Research & Innovation.
Sir David said: “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. Now we recognise that what happens at the Poles is of the greatest importance to everyone, everywhere.”
The ship is part of the government’s polar infrastructure investment programme designed to keep Britain at the forefront of world-leading research in Antarctica and the Arctic and she is the UK Government’s largest investment in polar science since the 1980s.
The Rolls-Royce design is based on the Polar Code 4 ice class with the capacity to be self-sufficient in fuel and supplies on voyages up to 19,000 miles.