The man who thought up RSS Boaty McBoatface is sorry for throwing a boat-naming contest off course, but that ship has sailed.
British scientists expected heroic or inspirational names when they asked the public to vote on the name of their planned $290 million polar research ship.
The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), a government funder of environmental science, launched its “Name Our Ship” poll on Thursday. Over the weekend, James Hand’s suggestion of Boaty McBoatface set out nautical miles ahead of the competition.
Other ideas that pay homage to British explorers and naturalists — such as RSS Henry Worsley and RSS David Attenborough — were left in Boaty McBoatface’s wake.
“I’m terribly sorry about all of this, @NERCscience,” Hand tweeted Sunday. The following morning he clarified, “My apology for #BoatyMcBoatface was in the most British sense. I stand by it being a brilliant name.”
Regardless of whether RSS Boaty McBoatface is ultimately emblazoned on the side of the vessel, its very presence has resulted in such high traffic that the NERC’s polling site was shut down temporarily on Monday.
Yahoo News reached out to the NERC to see what the organization thinks about the bizarre buzz around their planned state-of-the-art vessel, which could propel the U.K. to the cutting edge of ocean research for years to come when it sets off for the polar seas in 2019.
Alison Robinson, director of corporate affairs for the NERC, said in a statement that they are delighted by the “enthusiasm and creativity” participants have shown so far.
“We’ve had thousands of suggestions made on the website since we officially launched,” she said. “Many of them reflect the importance of the ship’s scientific role by celebrating great British explorers and scientists. We are pleased that people are embracing the idea in a spirit of fun.”
Robinson added that the NERC suggested criteria for the name on its website and the British Research Council will announce the final decision in due time. They wanted an inspirational name about environmental and polar science that follows the “RRS NAME” format because they will register the vessel as a Royal Research Ship. They also asked that it not be a name that’s already used for one of the group’s other science ships.
“We are very much enjoying hearing everyone’s ideas,” she said.
As noted on the poll website, the NERC designed the poll to gather suggestions and encourage public engagement but will ultimately make the final decision. So it’s unlikely the Internet will have its way.
The ship will be built at Cammell Laird shipyard in Merseyside in the Northwest of England.