When officials at Britain’s Natural Environment Research Council launched a competition to name their new polar research vessel, they probably expected one or two joke suggestions. What they probably didn’t expect was that one of those suggestions would grab the public attention and receive nine times more votes than the nearest serious contender.
Despite sensible proposals that the vessel be named after veteran natural history broadcaster David Attenborough or Antarctic explorer Henry Worsley, more than 27,000 people have voted for the name “Boaty McBoatface”, suggested in jest by former BBC presenter James Hand.
While it is likely that the public choice will be overturned, the informal name will almost certainly live on. And we’d like to think that the fact that so many people have an investment in Boaty McBoatface will provide encouragement to the scientists who work on-board the ship.