The UK government recently commissioned a state of the art polar research vessel to explore some of the unique phenomena that occur near the poles in the interest of science for the National Environmental Research Council. Once all the costs were added up the UK had made a $300 million investment in the ship. Perhaps seeking to get the public involved in how its tax dollars were spent, NERC asked people on Twitter what they should name it.
Most of the names suggested referenced renowned figures of British Science like Sir David Attenborough, a beloved naturalist whose regular television programs exposed a generation of young Britons to a love of the animal kingdom, and Henry Worsley, an arctic explorer who died from exposure to the elements in an attempt at a solo navigation of Antartica. There were, of course, some pretty stupid suggestions of the kind you might expect when you open suggestions up to everyone on twitter. One such monumentally stupid suggestion was the “Pillar of Autumn” which you might recognize as the name of the ship in the Halo games. It was in a distant fourth though, so no need to worry.
Then it happened. A twitter user by the name of James Hand tweeted a name that was clearly meant as a joke. This will be good for a laugh, he must have thought as he typed his suggestion: “Boaty Mcboatface.”
Then, as so often happens in these kinds of situations, the tweet took on a life of its own as it was retweeted again and again. “Boaty McBoatface” quickly shot to the top of the list which is where it stands now, outdistancing the second favorite suggestion by 23,000 votes.
Hand, like the mad scientist whose abominable creation had escaped his control and was now wreaking havoc in the nearby village, made a public apology for the horror he had given birth to.
I’m terribly sorry about all of this, @NERCscience.
— James Hand (@JamesHand) March 20, 2016
If the UK government decides to abide by the name chosen at the soft, sticky hands of the internet, then the RSS Boaty McBoatface will set sail in 2019. There is, however, nothing that requires them to do so and there is a pretty good chance that they will simply give their twitter followers a stern lecture on responsibility and go with a less stupid name.
Some of the other, less popular suggestions include the RSS Usain Boat and the RSS It’s Bloody Cold Here.
My personal suggestions: The RSS I Can Has Polar Research Plz and the RSS Deez Boat.