Science

UK’S ‘Boaty McBoatface’ To Travel Autonomously For Months In The Arctic

By J Russ I. , Oct 18, 2016 05:20 AM EDT
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BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: An Autosub, autonomous submarine, is winched prior to the keel-laying ceremony of the new polar research ship for Britain, RRS Sir David Attenborough, which is named after him, at Cammell Laird shipyard, on October 17, 2016 in Birkenhead, England. World-renowned naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough initiated the lifting of the first block. The RRS Sir David Attenborough is being built by Cammell Laird and operated by British Antarctic Survey. The new research ship will be one of the most advanced in the world. The keel-laying ceremony is a maritime tradition said to bring luck to the ship during her construction and to the captain and crew during her life. (Photo : Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Several months ago, the U.K. has conducted an online poll to ask people to name the country's newly built research ship. After thousands of votes have been chuck in, it was finally dubbed as Boaty McBoatface.

But the nation decided against it and named the ship after the famous naturalist and TV presenter, Sir David Attenborough. The decision on the naming was made by science minister Jo Johnson to commemorate the 90th birthday of the well-loved naturalist, according to the Guardian.

However, Boaty McBoatface was given to a yellow autonomous sub with the Attenborough vessel to act as its mothership. Humorous though its name may be, the submarine's would-be missions aren't.

Boaty McBoatface To Help Researchers Study Deep Current Movement

Sometime in the year of 2018 or 2019, the sub is to go on a journey under the frigid sea-ice water of the Antarctic. The voyage will be a strenuous one as it will have to cross one side of the ocean basin to the other, said BBC.

Estimated distance of the travel will be about 25,000 km. Journeys such as this aren't rare for submarines to take on but daunting when it comes to Boaty's case as it is battery-operated rather than running on nuclear power.

It's also going to travel autonomously for months. "It represents one of the last great transects on Earth for an autonomous sub," said Prof Russell Wynn, from the National Oceanography Centre, Boaty's UK base.

"Previously, such subs have gone perhaps 150km under the ice and then come back out again. Boaty will have the endurance to go all the way to the Arctic."

Boaty has already completed a series of advanced sea trials and is poised to engage in solo missions. It will be heading into the depths of the Southern Ocean to study how bottom current moves when Antarctic season research rolls around.

Sir Attenborough Says Boaty's Journey Will Be A Significant One

Next year it's scheduled to assist scientists regarding research on the North Sea to better understand how and where carbon dioxide could be buried offshore. Prof Wynn, head of the NOC's Marine Autonomous and Robotic System, has high expectations for Boaty saying it represents "something of a step-change in capability.

Sir Attenborough said that the journey of Boaty and its mothership will be a significant one. "It is the research that comes from the sort of vessel which this is that is important, and you might not think that way down in the Antarctic has got that much to do with us, but in point of fact a lot of weather is generated from down there and it was research that was done down there in the Antarctic which was responsible for discovering the hole in the ozone layer," said the naturalist.

"And it was that research that brought the world's attention to the danger, and brought scientists together to figure out how to fix it, and nations together to fix it as we have done now." Boaty is the most recent in a long line of robots that have been given an anthropomorphism treatment.

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