Britain's new polar ship, the Sir David Attenborough, headed for the open seas on 3 November to start trials after a storm delay, before making its maiden voyage to Antarctica next year for climate change research.
The 200 million pound ($260 million), state-of-the-art, polar research vessel, with its red hull and a bright yellow crane on its stern, sailed past Liverpool's historic docks and out into the sea, headed for north Wales. Officially the ship is named after the veteran BBC naturalist David Attenborough, but to many Britons it will always be known as "Boaty McBoatface", after that suggestion topped a public poll to name the vessel in 2016.
Its departure from Liverpool was delayed by around a week due to stormy weather, a British Antarctic Survey (BAS) spokeswoman told Reuters, with calm seas preferred to test and calibrate its specialist equipment for the first time. It will remain at sea for just under a week before berthing in Holyhead, Wales, once the current Welsh coronavirus lockdown ends on November 9, the spokeswoman added.
The BAS will operate the ship, carrying out ice trials in the Arctic in early 2021 before a journey to the Antarctic in November next year, where scientists say it will transform UK research in polar regions.
According to the BAS website, the ship will help researchers in improving our knowledge of key polar atmospheric and oceanic processes, which regulate our climate. That apart, it will also enhance our knowledge of the Southern Ocean ecosystem, which is essential for conserving and managing Antarctica’s species and biological resources.
The RRS Sir David Attenborough, which has a crew capacity of 30 members and accommodates up to 60 scientists and support staff, is designed to conduct science in extreme environments. The ship’s ice-strengthened hull can break through ice up to one metre thick, and has the ability to spend up to 60 days at sea, meaning it can undertake extensive voyages. It also supports the launch and recovery of aerial and ocean robotic systems.
Apart from having a number of built-in laboratories and instruments, the ship will have numerous science facilities that will allow scientists to conduct air and aerosol sampling, use acoustic equipment to conduct geophysical studies, collect biological samples, and study the interactions between oceans and the atmosphere. It will also carry autonomous underwater vehicles and rockdrills, to study the seafloor bedrock.
(With inputs from Reuters)