‘RRS Boaty McBoatface’: NERC Research Vessel Could End Up With A Joke Name

“RRS Boaty McBoatface” may not be a very regal sounding name for a Royal Research Ship, but if officials at the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) hold to their promise, Her Majesty may end up with a ship that literally has a joke for a name.

According to the Guardian, the ship is being built by the NERC at the Cammell Laird shipyard on Merseyside, near Liverpool. Construction of the 420-foot polar-research vessel is going to cost approximately $290 million and should be completed by 2019.

Once it is seaworthy, it will “provide the U.K. with the most advanced floating research fleet in the world,” NERC officials told NBC News.

Stenciling “Boaty McBoatface” across the bow of the NERC’s crowning achievement sounds more like vandalism than proper naming. This is the drawback of allowing the public to suggest names.

Scientists at NERC “urged people to name its ship in a competition,” said the BBC.

Officials apparently thought a contest to name the ship, by polling the public and going with the most popular name, would be fun. The problem was that the poll was open to added suggestions from the public, instead of being closed with a list of names selected by the NERC.

Someone added “Boaty McBoatface” to the NERC poll, obviously thinking it would be funny to have a silly name on the list. However, what nobody counted on was how the public would respond to such a cheeky name. As of Monday morning, the name led the poll with almost 30,000 votes. This is 10 times the number of votes that the second place name, “RRS Henry Worsley,” has received. The current totals are unknown as the amount of traffic to the polling website (https://nameourship.nerc.ac.uk) has caused an unintentional denial of service.

The NERC had not anticipated “Boaty McBoatface,” or any other crazy name, to be suggested.

The BBC reports, “the NERC had only expected ‘marine research fans’ to get involved.”

When NBC News tried to reach out to public affairs officials at the research council for comment, they were told that none were available because they were all in a “crisis meeting.” Apparently, the contest was causing them quite a stir, and they needed to discuss what to do if “Boaty McBoatface” actually did come out on top. However, it does not look likely that the name will be the final choice.

Arctic icebreaker ships are use to do research at the poles.
[Image via Canadian Coast Guard | Wikimedia Commons | Public domain]

Even if “Boaty McBoatface” is the overwhelming winner of the contest, NERC officials ultimately have the last say in the naming and have a panel already in place to choose the final name, reports the BBC.

A former BBC Radio Jersey presenter, James Hand, is responsible for the suggestion and has apologized for the row that it has created. However, apparently, apologies are not necessary. According to the associate director of communications and engagement at NERC, Julia Maddock, the research organization is “loving it.” The whole point of the contest was to get the public involved, and James’ suggestion has gotten the public so involved that their website cannot even keep up with the traffic.

“Boaty McBoatface” ending up first in the NERC poll illustrates how online polling cannot always give you desirable results. In a similarly themed nautical poll from 2007, Greenpeace allowed the public to choose names for a pod of whales it had been watching and protecting from hunters. “Mr. Splashy Pants” became a popular suggestion, and with the help of social media, became the No. 1 pick with 78 percent of the votes. “Humphrey” came in second, with only three percent of the votes, according to the BBC.

Humpback Whale performs a jump out of the water referred to as "breaching."
[Image via Wikimedia Commons | Public domain]

While “Boaty McBoatface” has garnered most of the votes, it is not the only hilarious name to be suggested in the NERC poll.

The BBC report listed several other funny names including, “Its Bloody Cold Here,” “What Iceberg,” “Captain Haddock,” “Big Shipinnit,” “Science!!!” and “Big Metal Floaty Thingy-thing.”

It is unreported when the NERC will decide upon a name, but it is almost certain to be a name other than “Boaty McBoatface.”

[Image via LA(Phot) Arron Hoare/MOD | Wikimedia Commons | OGL 1.0]