World renowned naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, visited Birkenhead today to lead a keel laying ceremony for the construction of a giant polar vessel named in his honour.
Previously dubbed ‘Boaty McBoatface’ after a public poll, the newly-named RSS Sir David Attenborough is the largest investment in polar science since the 1980s, built on Merseyside at Cammell Laird.
Sir David spoke of the importance of scientific exploration in the Antarctic before he pressed the button to activate the laying of the keel.
The BBC’s 90-year-old veteran presenter told visiting dignitaries: “The thought that this extraordinary ship, the cutting edge of research, to carry my name gives me deep pleasure and deep honour.
“I’m sorry it’s such a long name, I apologise for that. How it will be abbreviated, I don’t know and I won’t specify. But what I will know is to thank you and all involved for giving this astonishing ship my name. Thank you so much.”
The first expedition for the keel 1390 will be launched in 2019. Researchers are expected to examine the waters of the Southern Ocean for new information to provide help to scientists tackling issues facing humanity, including climate change, future sea levels rising, and the impact of environmental change on aquatic life.
Jane Frances, Director of the British Antarctic Survey, told JMU Journalism: “It’s remote, it’s wild, it’s dangerous to work in, but this is the kind of ship that will allow us to do that [research], so that will be probably our first exciting mission with the Sir David Attenborough.”
YouTube: JMU Journalism
Cammell Laird has partnered with Rolls-Royce to design and build the vessel, which will cost approximately £200m. The local shipyard beat off competition from Spain, Norway, Singapore and South Korea to win the lucrative contract.
Managing Director at Cammell Laird, Linton Roberts, told JMU Journalism: “We’ve increased the capability of the company year upon years since we restarted over 16 years ago. We’ve been building aircraft carriers and commercial ferries.
“Currently we’re building sections of nuclear submarines for BA Systems in Barrow as well, so this is another step forward for the capability of the company and a very proud day.”
British Antarctic Survey Director Frances said: “It’s amazing. To have a ship named after one of the greatest of naturalists in the country and known all around the world is a really good signal that we’re really trying to understand the environment and conserve the environment in the way he would want.”