The Tale of Boaty McBoatface – The British Exploration Ship

The idea for the name “Boaty McBoatface” for the British ship stemmed from an owl named Hooty McOwlface.

As for people, we tend to not take our online presence too seriously. We watch fail compilations and laugh at people falling down, some of us even troll others with hurtful comments, and others just like to mess with honest polls. And that last point is where our story begins.

Let’s go all the way back to 2014…

An Announcement and a Public Poll

In 2014, the UK Government announced funding for a new polar research vessel to replace two older ships in the British Antarctic Survey’s fleet.

Construction on the £150 million, 15,000-ton surveying behemoth was set to begin in July 2016, so the UK Government decided to involve taxpayers in the naming process.

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) asked the public for suggested names for the new ship, with a disclaimer that they would have the final say in naming it.

A Joke Taken Seriously

After the poll opened, things quickly escalated from tame to insane. James Hand, a former BBC employee and PR professional, suggested the name “Boaty McBoatface” as a joke, inspired by an owl named through the 2012 “Adopt-a-Bird” program who became an internet sensation.

The name caught fire and went viral, rocketing to the top spot in the poll within 24 hours, beating out 7,034 other suggestions.

Despite Hand’s apology to the NERC on Twitter, the name Boaty McBoatface won with 33.16% of the total vote, while the second-place suggestion, Poppy-Mai, only had 10.66%.

The Winner

And so, the ship was named Boaty McBoatface, much to the delight of the internet and the chagrin of the NERC.

The NERC went against the poll results and named the ship “Sir David Attenborough” instead of “Boaty McBoatface”. However, one of the ship’s submersibles was named “Boaty McBoatface” as a consolation prize. Some people were upset about the decision and even started a petition to change Sir David Attenborough’s name to Sir Boaty McBoatface. Despite the backlash, the NERC directors were happy with the publicity garnered from the poll. The legacy of Boaty McBoatface continued with other names such as “Stealthy McStealthface”, “Spacey McSpaceTree”, and “Trainy McTrainface”. The hilarious name will not be forgotten anytime soon.


1. What is Boaty McBoatface?

Boaty McBoatface is a British research vessel that gained worldwide fame in 2016 when a public poll to name the ship resulted in the humorous moniker. The poll was conducted by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to name their new state-of-the-art polar research vessel, but the overwhelming response was Boaty McBoatface.

2. Who suggested the name Boaty McBoatface?

The name Boaty McBoatface was suggested by James Hand, a former BBC presenter. He submitted the name as a joke on the NERC’s naming poll website, not expecting it to gain so much attention. The name quickly went viral, and eventually, the NERC decided to name one of the ship’s remotely operated submersibles Boaty McBoatface.

3. Was the ship ultimately named Boaty McBoatface?

No, the British government overruled the public vote and decided to name the ship after Sir David Attenborough, a renowned naturalist and broadcaster. However, one of the ship’s submersibles was named Boaty McBoatface in honor of the viral sensation.

4. What is the purpose of the Boaty McBoatface research vessel?

The Boaty McBoatface research vessel is designed for polar research and exploration, specifically to study the effects of climate change on the Antarctic. The ship is equipped with state-of-the-art technology and laboratories to conduct a range of scientific experiments and data collection.

5. What impact did the Boaty McBoatface naming poll have?

The Boaty McBoatface naming poll gained worldwide attention and sparked a lot of discussion about the role of public opinion in decision-making processes. The NERC was initially criticized for opening up the naming poll if they were not prepared to accept the outcome. However, the incident also brought attention to the important work being done by the research vessel and the need for continued scientific exploration in the polar regions.

6. What other notable names were suggested in the Boaty McBoatface poll?

Other popular suggestions in the Boaty McBoatface naming poll included RRS It’s Bloody Cold Here, RRS Usain Boat, RRS Ice Ice Baby, and RRS Notthetitanic. While these names did not ultimately win, they did add to the humor and lightheartedness of the event.

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