Boaty McBoatface

Boaty McBoatface[2][7] (also known as Boaty)[1][6] is the British lead boat in a fleet of three robotic lithium battery–powered autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) of the Autosub Long Range (ALR) class.[1][5] Launched in 2017 and carried on board the polar scientific research vessel RRS Sir David Attenborough, she is a focal point of the Polar Explorer Programme of the UK Government.[4][6][8]

Boaty McBoatface
Drawing of BoatyMcBoatface.png
Drawing of Boaty McBoatface
NameBoaty McBoatface[1]
OwnerNational Oceanography Centre (NOC), Southampton, England, UK;[1][2] part of the UK National Marine Equipment Pool (NMEP)[3]
OperatorBritish Antarctic Survey (BAS)[2]
Maiden voyage3 April 2017; 5 years ago (2017-04-03)
In service2018; 5 years ago (2018)[2]
StatusActive; focal point of the Polar Explorer Programme of the British government[4]
NotesCarried onboard the polar scientific research ship RRS Sir David Attenborough[4]
General characteristics
Class and typeAutosub Long Range (ALR)[1][5]
TypeLong-range autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV)[7]
Displacement700 kilograms (1,543 pounds)[1]
Length3.62 metres (11 feet 10.5 inches)[1]
Installed powerLithium battery power[5]
PropulsionElectric motor-powered propeller
Speed0.5 to 1.0 metre per second (1.6 to 3.3 feet per second)[1]
Rangeat least 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles)[2]
Endurance"several months"[1][6]
Test depth6,000 metres (19,690 feet)[1][2][7][6]
Complement0 – totally autonomous, pre-programmed before each mission launch
Sensors and
processing systems
Sonar, temperature, salinity, density, audio[2]

Boaty and her two fleet-mates are part of the UK National Marine Equipment Pool and owned by the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton.[1][2][3][6] She is classified as an "autosub long range (ALR) autonomous underwater vehicle",[4][9] and will use her onboard sensors to map the movement of deep waters that play a vital role in regulating the Earth's climate.[5][2][10]


The name Boaty McBoatface was originally proposed in a March 2016 #NameOurShip online poll[6] to name the £200 million polar scientific research ship being constructed in the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead for the United Kingdom's Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).[2] BBC Radio Jersey presenter James Hand coined the humorous suggestion Boaty McBoatface for the poll, and the name quickly became the most popular choice, with 124,109 votes.[7][11] The name was described as a homage to Hooty McOwlface, an owl named through an "Adopt-a-Bird" programme in 2012 that became popular on the Internet.[12]

Although Boaty McBoatface was the most popular suggestion in the #NameOurShip poll, the suggestion to use the name for the mothership was not followed.[13] In October 2016, Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science, announced that the ship would be named Sir David Attenborough, after the eminent English zoologist and broadcaster, who came fifth in the poll.[14][8][15][16][17] The name Boaty McBoatface, despite receiving more than ten times the number of votes of Sir David Attenborough, was assigned to one of the submersibles deployed aboard the RRS Sir David Attenborough instead.[18] Describing it as an "eloquent compromise", Duncan Wingham told the Commons Science and Technology Committee, "The controversy over the naming of a new polar research vessel was an 'astoundingly good outcome for public interest in science'", and "the row had 'put a smile' on people's faces" after attracting huge public interest.[17]

Observers of contemporary culture coined the term "McBoatfacing", defined as "making the critical mistake of letting the internet decide things". In one such observation, Jennifer Finney Boylan of The New York Times wrote that to be "McBoatfaced" was to allow people to "deliberately make their choices not in order to foster the greatest societal good, but, instead, to mess with you".[19] The results of the poll inspired numerous similar spoofs in other naming polls.[20][21]


Boaty underwent advanced sea trials in 2016.[2]


Her maiden voyage proper started on 3 April 2017; 5 years ago (2017-04-03), with the Dynamics of the Orkney Passage Outflow (DynOPO)[6][22] expedition onboard research ship RRS James Clark Ross of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), to research how Antarctic Bottom Water leaves the Weddell Sea and enters the Southern Ocean through a 3.5 kilometres (11,000 feet) deep region known as the Orkney Passage,[7] south of Chile.[5][23][24][25] During this DynOPO expedition, which was part of a primary project with the University of Southampton, the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), along with additional support from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Princeton University, she traveled 112 miles (180 kilometres) at depths of up to 4,000 metres (13,000 feet), and collected data on water temperature, salinity, and turbulence. Combined with measurements collected by RRS James Clark Ross, the data suggest that as winds over the Southern Ocean have strengthened, driven by the hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica, and increases in greenhouse gases, they have increased the turbulence of deep ocean waters, leading to increased mixing of cold and warm water.[26] According to National Oceanography Centre oceanographer Dr Eleanor Frajka-Williams,[27] "This was the unique new process that rapidly exchanges water between the cold and the warm and then spreads the effect of the different water properties over a larger area", more efficiently than the better-known processes that mix warm surface waters with cold water from the deep sea.[26] This action rapidly warms the cold water, which contributes to rising sea levels, as water becomes less dense as it warms.[28] This newly discovered action has not yet been included in models for predicting sea level rise and the effect of climate change on the ocean.[29] The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.[30]

A subsequent voyage for Boaty in 2017 was in the North Sea. Fitted with new chemical and acoustic sensors, these will enable Boaty to seek, or 'sniff out' traces indicating the artificial release of gas from beneath the seabed.[6] This will be part of a world first 'real world' controlled experiment in deep-water, in order to simulate any potential release of gas that may be indicative of leakage from a carbon capture and storage reservoir; and will be led by the NOC.[6]

Following on from her North Sea exploits, Boaty will head north in a major technical challenge, and attempt the first ever under-ice crossing of the Arctic Ocean.[6][needs update]

Starting March 2017, Boaty will also provide a package of online educational resources, primarily for teachers in low-attaining primary and secondary schools, as an aid to improving learning in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects for pupils.[6] This material from Boaty will also be made available to the general public.[6]

During January and February 2018, Boaty completed her first mission under-ice. She was deployed in the southern section of the Weddell Sea, spending a total of 51 hours under the Antarctic ice. Part of the Filchner Ice Shelf System Project, she travelled a total of 108 kilometres (67 miles) and reached water depths of 944 metres (3,097 feet) during the mission. Boaty spent 20 hours underneath a 550 metres (1,800 feet) thick section of ice shelf.[1]

On 3 November 2020, Boaty headed for the open seas to start trials before a scheduled trip to Antarctica in 2021 for climate change research.[31][needs update]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Boaty McBoatface". Southampton, England, UK: National Oceanography Centre (NOC). Archived from the original on 16 December 2020. Retrieved 11 December 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Amos, Jonathan (BBC Science Correspondent) (17 October 2016). "Arctic crossing planned for 'Boaty' sub". BBC News, Science & Environment. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  3. ^ a b "National Marine Equipment Pool". Southampton, England, UK: National Oceanography Centre (NOC). Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d "New polar ship reaches first construction milestone". Cambridge, England, UK: British Antarctic Survey (BAS). 17 October 2016. Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e Amos, Jonathan (BBC Science Correspondent) (13 March 2017). "Boaty McBoatface submarine set for first voyage". London, England, UK: British Broadcasting Corporation. BBC News. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Southampton becomes the home of 'Boaty McBoatface'". Southampton, England, UK: National Oceanography Centre (NOC). 17 October 2016. Archived from the original on 19 September 2020. Retrieved 10 December 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  7. ^ a b c d e Slawson, Nicola (13 March 2017). "Boaty McBoatface to go on its first Antarctic mission". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  8. ^ a b "'Boaty McBoatface' polar ship named after Attenborough". BBC News. 6 May 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  9. ^ "NOC's Autosub Long Range is Boaty McBoatface". National Oceanography Centre. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  10. ^ Taeihagh, Araz (1 December 2017). "Crowdsourcing: a new tool for policy-making?". Policy Sciences. 50 (4): 629–647. arXiv:1802.03113. doi:10.1007/s11077-017-9303-3. ISSN 1573-0891. S2CID 27696037.
  11. ^ "'Boaty McBoatface' tops public vote as name of polar ship". BBC News. 17 April 2016. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  12. ^ Whipple, Tom (18 April 2016). "Boaty McBoatface tops poll but will vote be scuppered?". The Times. Retrieved 6 December 2020. Yet the runaway winner was RSS Boaty McBoatface, itself an homage to the owl that was named Hooty McOwlface after a similar exercise.
  13. ^ "Boaty McBoatface instigator 'sorry' for ship name suggestion". British Broadcasting Corporation. BBC News. 21 March 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  14. ^ "'Boaty McBoatface' tops public vote as name of polar ship". BBC News. 16 April 2016. Retrieved 5 December 2022.
  15. ^ "#NameOurShip". Swindon: Natural Environment Research Council. 2016. Archived from the original on 3 June 2016. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  16. ^ "£200m polar research ship named in honour of Sir David Attenborough". Natural Environment Research Council. Archived from the original on 7 May 2016. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  17. ^ a b "Boaty McBoatface controversy 'good for science', MPs told". London, England, UK: British Broadcasting Corporation. BBC News. 11 May 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  18. ^ Knapton, Sarah (6 May 2016). "'BoatyMcBoatface' to live on as yellow submarine, science minister Jo Johnson announces". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  19. ^ "Trump and the Boaty McBoatfacing of America". The New York Times. 28 October 2020. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  20. ^ Eastaugh, Sophie (15 April 2016). "Racehorse named Horsey McHorseFace because 'hey, why not?'". CNN.
  21. ^ Hern, Alex (19 July 2017). "Trainy McTrainface: Swedish railway keeps Boaty's legacy alive". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  22. ^ "Dynamics of the Orkney Passage Outflow (DynOPO)". Cambridge, England, UK: British Antarctic Survey (BAS). 30 September 2018 [1 October 2014]. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  23. ^ "Boaty McBoatface sent on first Antarctic mission". LBC News. 13 March 2017. Archived from the original on 26 March 2017. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  24. ^ "'Boaty McBoatface' submarine returns home". London, England, UK: British Broadcasting Corporation. BBC News. 28 June 2017.
  25. ^ Naveira Garabato, Alberto C.; et al. (2017). RRS James Cook Cruise JR16005, 17 Mar - 08 May 2017. The Dynamics of the Orkney Passage Outflow (DynOPO). (Technical report). National Oceanography CentreNatural Environment Research Council. 47.
  26. ^ a b Kennedy, Merrit (18 June 2019). "Boaty McBoatface, internet-adored sub, makes deep-sea discovery on climate change". Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  27. ^ "Dr Eleanor Frajka-Williams". Southampton, England: National Oceanography Centre (NOC). Retrieved 9 December 2020.
  28. ^ Donnelly, Laura (17 June 2019). "Boaty McBoatface makes major climate change discovery on maiden outing". The Telegraph. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  29. ^ "Boaty McBoatface mission gives new insight into warming ocean abyss". University of Southampton. June 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  30. ^ Naveira Garabato, Alberto C; Frajka-Williams, Eleanor; Spingys, Carl P; Legg, Sonya; Polzin, Kurt L; Forryan, Alexander; Abrahamsen, Povl; Buckingham, Christian; Griffies, Stephen M; McPhail, Stephen; Nicholls, Keith; Thomas, Leif N; Meredith, Michael (18 June 2019). "Rapid mixing and exchange of deep-ocean waters in an abyssal boundary current". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 116 (27): 13233–13238. Bibcode:2019PNAS..11613233N. doi:10.1073/pnas.1904087116. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 6613131. PMID 31213535.
  31. ^ "Britain's 'Boaty McBoatface' heads for open seas" (Video 0:45). Reuters. 3 November 2020.

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