Boaty McBoatface

Boaty McBoatface[2][7] is the British lead boat in a fleet of three robotic Autosub Long Range (ALR) class[1][5] of lithium battery-powered autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). It is used for scientific research, and is carried onboard the polar scientific research vessel RRS Sir David Attenborough.[4][8] 'Boaty', as it is affectionately known,[1][6] will be the focal point of the Polar Explorer Programme of the UK Government.[4][6]

Boaty McBoatface
Drawing of BoatyMcBoatface.png
Drawing of BoatyMcBoatface
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; 4 years ago (2017-04-03)
In service2018; 3 years ago (2018)[2]
StatusActive; focal point of the Polar Explorer Programme of the UK 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 McBoatface, and her two fleet-mates, part of the UK National Marine Equipment Pool (NMEP),[1][3][6] are owned by the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) in Southampton,[1][2] part of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC); and operated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), which is headquartered in Cambridge, England,[2][9] and is also part of NERC. Because of its complexity and its extended range, NERC classifies Boaty as an 'autosub long range (ALR) autonomous underwater vehicle'.[4][10] With her onboard sensors, Boaty will be mapping the movement of deep waters which play a vital role in regulating the Earth's climate.[5]


The name Boaty McBoatface was originally proposed in a March 2016 #NameOurShip online poll[6] to name the £200 million polar scientific research ship for the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), being constructed in the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead,[2] that would eventually be named RRS Sir David Attenborough,[8][11][12] after the eminent zoologist and highly popular English broadcaster Sir David Attenborough (who came fourth in the poll).[13] Former BBC Radio Jersey presenter James Hand jokingly suggested 'Boaty McBoatface', a name the public liked, and that quickly became the most popular choice.[7] The name has been described as a homage to Hooty McOwlface, an owl named through an 'Adopt-a-Bird' programme in 2012 that became popular on the internet.[14]

Although Boaty McBoatface was the most popular suggestion in the #NameOurShip poll,[11] the suggestion to use the name for the mother ship was not followed;[15] the Minister for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson, announced that the ship would be named Sir David Attenborough, and the name Boaty McBoatface would be used for one of the submersibles aboard instead.[16] The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) defended its decision to seek names via an online poll.[13] Describing it as an "eloquent compromise", Professor 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.[13]

The results of the poll inspired similar results in other naming polls.[17][18][19][20][21][22][23]

Observers of contemporary culture coined the term 'McBoatfacing', 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' is to allow people to "deliberately make their choices not in order to foster the greatest societal good, but, instead, to mess with you".[24]


Boaty McBoatface autonomous yellow submarine underwent advanced sea trials in 2016.[2]


Her maiden voyage proper started on 3 April 2017; 4 years ago (2017-04-03), with the Dynamics of the Orkney Passage Outflow (DynOPO)[6][25] 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][26][27][28] 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.[29] According to National Oceanography Centre oceanographer Dr Eleanor Frajka-Williams,[30] "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.[29] This action rapidly warms the cold water, which contributes to rising sea levels, as water becomes less dense as it warms.[31] 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.[32] The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.[33]

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]

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.[34]

Similar namesEdit

Trainy McTrainface (unit number 74005) Stadler FLIRT of MTR Express at Gothenburg Central Station in 2019, named following the disappointment of the McBoatface decision.

A wide range of companies or organizations have renamed items or items in their business. This includes:

  • A bookmobile: The mobile library for Orkney Library and Archive is called "Booky McBookface." It is a bright blue bus which is ferried from island to island to bring books to rural and remote areas.[35]
  • A horse: Sydney's Warwick Farm Racecourse named their new racehorse Horsey McHorseface in 2016.[36] Horsey McHorseface was put to auction and sold for $17,325,[37] but in 2017 was euthanised due to bone disease.[38]
  • A train: Swedish rail transport company MTR Express conducted an online poll soon after the one involving Boaty McBoatface, to name a new train on the Stockholm to Gothenburg line. Trainy McTrainface won the poll with 49% of the vote, and the train was named accordingly.[18][39]
  • A ferry: Sydney Ferries allowed the public to name its fleet of Emerald-class ferries through a naming competition.[40] It was announced that the most popular name was Boaty McBoatface but, as it had already been taken, the judges opted to go instead for the second-place choice, and one of the ferries was thus named Ferry McFerryface.[41] After the Maritime Union of Australia refused to crew the vessel in protest at the name, it entered service named Emerald 6, with a Ferry McFerryface sticker below the bridge.[19][42][43]
  • a megabus: Megabus' United Kingdom operation hosted a Twitter poll in late 2017 to name some of their brand-new Plaxton Elite bodied Volvo B11RT inter-deck coaches. Mega McMegaface won, and the name was applied to one of the vehicles.[44]
  • a bridge: in March 2017, the Isle of Wight Council, which operates the Cowes Floating Bridge (a chain ferry across the River Medina between Cowes and East Cowes), stated it was open to suggestions from residents for a new name for the vessel, after originally registering it as Floating Bridge no. 6. Despite council officials ruling out Floaty McFloatface as a name,[45] a petition was later created to name the vessel Floaty McFloatface, attracting over 2,000 signatures,[46] and even caused the council to rescind its decision to veto the name.[47]
  • a sluice gate: In November 2020, the Dutch municipality of IJmuiden refused to name the new sluice lock Sluice McSluiceface or Sluisje McSluisface in Dutch. The name eventually chosen was Zeesluis IJmuiden (Sea Sluice IJmuiden).[48]
  • Snow plow: In February 2021, the Minnesota Department of Transportation arranged a contest to name a new fleet of snowplows. Out of the fifty finalists selected from about 24,000 entries, Plowy McPlowface was the top of the eight winners of a public poll, receiving support of over half of the voting pool, and was assigned to the Metro District's new snowplow.[49][50]
  • a skate park: In June 2019, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council named a skate park Skatey McSkateface after a public vote.[51]

Similar polling strategyEdit

In December 2016, after an online poll for children, Oldham Council chose to name one of their new gritter trucks (salt truck) Nicole Saltslinger following more than 5,000 entries.[52] In November 2017, following public submissions, Doncaster Council announced the names for two new additional gritter trucks (salt truck) to their fleet; namely Gritsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Anti-Slip Machiney (with 52.6% of the vote), and David Plowie (47.4% of the vote). This follows its five previously named gritters: Brad Grit, Gritney Spears, The Subzero Hero, Mr Plow, and Usain Salt.[53] The following year, in October 2018, Shropshire Council followed the similar theme, and named one of its gritter trucks Gritty McGritface after a public vote.[54] Many other local authorities in Britain have also asked the public for name suggestions for their winter maintenance fleet.[53]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Boaty McBoatface". Southampton, England, UK: National Oceanography Centre (NOC). Archived from the original on 17 February 2017. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  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". London, England, UK: British Broadcasting Corporation. BBC News, Science & Environment. Retrieved 6 December 2020. The UK’s favourite new yellow submarine, Boaty McBoatface, is in training for a grand challenge.
  3. ^ a b "National Marine Equipment Pool". Southampton, England, UK: National Oceanography Centre (NOC). Retrieved 10 December 2020. The National Marine Equipment Pool (NMEP) is the largest centralised marine scientific equipment pool in Europe with a diverse range of scientific instruments and equipment capable of sampling from the sea surface to the deep ocean.
  4. ^ a b c d e "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 21 October 2016.
  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". London, England, UK: British Broadcasting Corporation. BBC News. 6 May 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "NOC's Autosub Long Range is Boaty McBoatface". National Oceanography Centre. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  11. ^ a b "#NameOurShip". Swindon: Natural Environment Research Council. 2016. Archived from the original on 3 June 2016. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  12. ^ "£200m polar research ship named in honour of Sir David Attenborough". Natural Environment Research Council. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  13. ^ a b c "Boaty McBoatface controversy 'good for science', MPs told". London, England, UK: British Broadcasting Corporation. BBC News. 11 May 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ "Boaty McBoatface instigator 'sorry' for ship name suggestion". London, England, UK: British Broadcasting Corporation. BBC News. 21 March 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  16. ^ Knapton, Sarah (6 May 2016). "'BoatyMcBoatface' to live on as yellow submarine, science minister Jo Johnson announces". London: The Daily Telegraph.
  17. ^ Eastaugh, Sophie (15 April 2016). "Racehorse named Horsey McHorseFace because 'hey, why not?'". CNN.
  18. ^ a b Hern, Alex (19 July 2017). "Trainy McTrainface: Swedish railway keeps Boaty's legacy alive". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  19. ^ a b "Ferry McFerryface to be name of new Sydney ferry after public vote". ABC News. 13 November 2017. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  20. ^ Washington, Boer Deng (17 May 2016). "Stealthy McStealthface reports for service". The Times. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  21. ^ "Footy McFooty Face is stomping competition in vote for MLS team name". National Public Radio. 28 March 2017. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  22. ^ "Sluisje McSluisface: the lock name that could have been". dutchreview. 31 December 2020. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  23. ^ "Name a Snowplow contest - MinDOT". Minnesota Department of Transportation. Archived from the original on 2 March 2021. Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  24. ^ "Trump and the Boaty McBoatfacing of America". The New York Times. 28 October 2020. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  25. ^ "Dynamics of the Orkney Passage Outflow (DynOPO)". Cambridge, England, UK: British Antarctic Survey (BAS). 30 September 2018 [1 October 2014]. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  26. ^ "Boaty McBoatface sent on first Antarctic mission". LBC News. 13 March 2017. Archived from the original on 26 March 2017. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  27. ^ "'Boaty McBoatface' submarine returns home". London, England, UK: British Broadcasting Corporation. BBC News. 28 June 2017.
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ a b Kennedy, Merrit (18 June 2019). "Boaty McBoatface, internet-adored sub, makes deep-sea discovery on climate change". Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  30. ^ "Dr Eleanor Frajka-Williams". Southampton, England: National Oceanography Centre (NOC). Retrieved 9 December 2020.
  31. ^ Donnelly, Laura (17 June 2019). "Boaty McBoatface makes major climate change discovery on maiden outing". The Telegraph. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  32. ^ "Boaty McBoatface mission gives new insight into warming ocean abyss". University of Southampton. June 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  33. ^ 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.
  34. ^ "Britain's 'Boaty McBoatface' heads for open seas" (Video 0:45). Reuters. 3 November 2020.
  35. ^ "Orkney Library and Archive". 1 July 2021.
  36. ^ "High hopes for Horsey McHorseface". London, England, UK: British Broadcasting Corporation. BBC News. 15 April 2016. Retrieved 25 December 2017.
  37. ^ Sheehan, Luke (30 June 2017). "Horsey McHorseface for sale". Retrieved 25 December 2017.
  38. ^ Sheehan, Luke (22 October 2017). "Sad end to McHorseface tale". Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  39. ^ "It's official! Sweden names new train Trainy McTrainface". Stockholm: The Local. 17 October 2017. Retrieved 25 December 2017.
  40. ^ Visentin, Lisa (22 July 2016). "Ferry McFerryface? NSW government launches naming competition for new ferries". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  41. ^ Transport NSW. "It's official. We have named the final ferry in the new fleet. Welcome to Sydney, Ferry McFerryFace". Transport NSW, via Facebook. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  42. ^ "Ferry workers to boycott Ferry McFerryface". SBS World News. 14 November 2017.
  43. ^ "Ferry McFerryface sets sail as union, government agree to name change". Seven News. Archived from the original on 14 January 2018. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  44. ^ "Kein neues "Boaty McBoatface"" [No new 'Boaty McBoatface']. (in German). Der Standard. 2 November 2018. Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  45. ^ "Council torpedoes 'Floaty McFloatface' idea". Newshub. 4 March 2017.
  46. ^ "Floaty McFloatface? Petition launched to name the new Isle of Wight floating bridge". YBW. 29 March 2017.
  47. ^ "Floaty McFloat Face 'still an option' as council looks for new bridge name". Southampton: Southern Daily Echo. 28 March 2017.
  48. ^ "Sea lock won't be called Sluice McSluiceface". 25 October 2020.
  49. ^ "Plowy McPlowface? Voting opens in MnDOT snowplow naming contest". 18 February 2021.
  50. ^ Minnesota Department of Transportation [@MnDOT] (2 March 2021). "The votes are in: After more than 122,000 votes cast, we're excited to announce the winners of our Name a Snowplow contest! These eight names will soon be on snowplows across the state. Learn more:" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  51. ^ "'Skatey McSkateface' wins public vote for Southend skate park". London, England, UK: British Broadcasting Corporation. BBC News. 17 June 2019.
  52. ^ "Road gritter named after Nicole Scherzinger". London, England, UK: British Broadcasting Corporation. BBC News. 2 December 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  53. ^ a b "Doncaster's new gritters named David Plowie and Gritsy Bitsy". London, England, UK: British Broadcasting Corporation. BBC News. 17 November 2017. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  54. ^ "'Gritty McGritface' wins naming ballot". London, England, UK: British Broadcasting Corporation. BBC News. 27 October 2018. Retrieved 6 December 2020.

External linksEdit