Boaty McBoatface returns from its first voyage with ‘unprecedented’ data

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The internet has spoken -- and "RRS Boaty McBoatface" is the people's choice to name a $300 million state-of-the-art polar research ship. Over 7,000 names were submitted to the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) poll which closed April 16, but "Boaty McBoatface" won easily with 124,109 votes.

LONDON — We may not all live in a yellow submarine, but Boaty McBoatface — the internet’s favorite golden-hued robotic submersible — returned home to the United Kingdom last week with “unprecedented data” about some of the coldest and deepest ocean waters on the planet that may help scientists better understand climate change, researchers said in a statement Wednesday.

“We have been able to collect massive amounts of data that we have never been able to capture before due to the way Boaty is able to move underwater,” Professor Alberto Naveira Garabato from the University of Southampton, the lead scientist of expedition, said in the statement. “Up until now we have only been able to take measurements from a fixed point, but now, we are able to obtain a much more detailed picture of what is happening in this very important underwater landscape. The challenge for us now is to analyze it all.”

Boaty McBoatface’s first voyage involved three missions 500 miles from the Antarctic Peninsula in the deep, cold water of the Orkney Passage, a region of the Southern Ocean about 4,000 meters deep, according to the British Antarctic Survey.

The sub traveled with the RRS James Clark Ross and scientists from the University of Southampton, British Antarctic Survey and engineers from National Oceanography Centre. The researchers collected data on temperature, speed of water flow and underwater turbulence from instruments on the ship, on the sea floor and, of course, from Boaty McBoatface.

The data collected will be analyzed to assess underwater turbulence and understand what happens as cold, deep Antarctic water currents mix with other currents and warm as they move toward the equator, which scientists say plays a role in global climate change.

Boaty McBoatface is so named because the Natural Environment Research Council in the UK asked the internet to name a polar research ship.

More than 7,000 names were submitted, with a clear winner: Boaty McBoatface.

Despite the name’s huge popularity, the council vetoed it and ended up naming the $300 million state-of-the-art vessel after legendary broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough.

But in the spirit of the contest, the council gave the democratically-chosen name to one of the Autosub Long Range class autonomous underwater vehicles developed at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton.