Culture

Britain Launches 'Boaty McBoatface' Yellow Submarine on Arctic Voyage

NERC polar research ship. A submersive called Boaty McBoatface on display at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead. Picture date: Monday, October 17, 2016. (Peter Byrne/PA Wire)

Britons are singing The Beatles, and the name of their yellow submarine is … “Boaty McBoatface.” The sub is set to leave for Antarctica this week to measure deep sea temperatures.

BBC News reported that the submarine is an unmanned robot, and it has been tasked with mapping the movement of deep waters which “play a critical role in regulating Earth’s climate.”

Britain opened the name of its new £200m polar research vessel to a public online poll, and the name “Boaty McBoatface” won first prize. The government chickened out, however, claiming this name would be inappropriate to the major ship. It did allow the humorous moniker to survive, however — and the unlucky sub is launching this week.

But there is actually more than one Boaty — the name covers a trio of vehicles in the new Autosub Long Range class of underwater robots developed at the National Oceanography Centre (NOC).

The most famous robotic sub will head out of Punta Arenas, Chile, on Friday aboard Britain’s current polar ship, the RRS James Clark Ross. The ship will drop Boaty in a narrow, jagged, 3,500 meter-deep gap in an underwater ridge northeast of the Antarctic Peninsula. This Orkney Passage is the gateway into the Atlantic for much of the “bottom-water” created as sea-ice grows on the margins of Antarctica.

While scientists have good evidence that the bottom-water is warming, they cannot yet explain why, according to Professor Mike Meredith from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). He explained that the temperature shift can damage benthic ecosystems, killing animals at the bottom of the sea.

The other two “boaties” are open for scientific proposals, NOC’s professor Russell Wynn told BBC News. “One vehicle might be going out to Antarctica and surveying around and under the ice; another might be going to the deepest parts of the ocean, down to 6km; and another might be doing something more applied in, for example, the North Sea,” Wynn said. “We’re getting lots of proposals and it’s great that we can meet that demand.”

Boaty McBoatface’s mission, the Dynamics of the Orkey Passage Outflow (DynOPO) expedition, is a collaboration between BAS, the University of Southampton, and NOC.

James Hand, the man responsible for the name “Boaty McBoatface,” has apologized.

But he insists that the name is still “brilliant.”

Yes, this is serious news. But that doesn’t make it any less hilarious.