Attenborough hails start of construction of ship almost named Boaty McBoatface
Sir David Attenborough has hailed the start of construction of a polar research ship, which shot to fame amid calls to name it Boaty McBoatface, as a "marvellous occasion".
Naturalist and TV presenter, after whom it was ultimately decided the ship should be named, will initiate the laying of the first block of the keel.
The keel-laying is a traditional maritime ceremony to bring good luck to a vessel during her construction and her captain and crew during her life.
Sir David said: "It is a marvellous occasion. I have sailed on British Antarctic Survey (BAS) ships before and been on a BAS station in the Antarctic, so I know what sort of thing that ship is going to go through.
"I am very flattered to be asked to lay the keel."
The £200 million vessel has been commissioned by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and is being built in the UK on Merseyside in the largest commercial shipbuilding project in the country in 30 years.
Once she sets sail in 2019, the RRS Sir David Attenborough will provide the UK with the most advanced floating research fleet in the world and will conduct research into the world's oceans and tackling climate change, the research council said.
The ship first grabbed headlines after a "name our ship" competition, in which the suggestion Boaty McBoatface topped the public poll with more than 124,000 votes, more than three times its nearest rival.
Commenting on the name, Sir David told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "The name is actually going to be preserved on one of the submersibles which are actually going to be operating from the research ship when it's built.
"So there will be a BAS, or whatever the correct initials are, Boatface or Boaty, or something of that sort."
The final decision on the name was made by Science Minister Jo Johnson, and the announcement the vessel would be called after Sir David was made just days before the veteran broadcaster's 90th birthday.
But in a move recognising the popularity of the Boaty McBoatface moniker, it was also announced a remote-control sub-sea vehicle, which will be launched from the research vessel, would be given that name.
Asked about the importance of the work likely to be carried out by the ship, Sir David added: "It is the research that comes from the sort of vessel which this is that is important, and you might not think that way down in the Antarctic has got that much to do with us, but in point of fact a lot of weather is generated from down there and it was research that was done down there in the Antarctic which was responsible for discovering the hole in the ozone layer.
"And it was that research that brought the world's attention to the danger, and brought scientists together to figure out how to fix it, and nations together to fix it as we have done now."
The RRS Sir David Attenborough is being built by Cammell Laird and will be operated by the British Antarctic Survey.
The keel-laying ceremony is set to be attended by around 1,000 people including guests from science, technology and engineering spheres and the shipyard workforce.
Mr Johnson said: "The RRS Sir David Attenborough, with Boaty McBoatface operated from her as a robotic underwater vehicle, will be one of the most advanced research ships in the world.
"It will help inspire the next generation of scientists in the UK and build on our status as one of the world's leading nations in polar science, engineering and technology.
"With Merseyside's proud history and expertise in ship building, this project will support over 460 local jobs and apprenticeships, and provide a boost to the region and the whole Northern Powerhouse."