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William and Kate join Sir David Attenborough to see ship named after naturalist

The research vessel had been named Boaty McBoatface in a public vote, but that decision was vetoed in favour of the veteran broadcaster.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge join Sir David Attenborough for the naming ceremony of the polar research ship named in the naturalist’s honour (Peter Byrne/PA)
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge join Sir David Attenborough for the naming ceremony of the polar research ship named in the naturalist’s honour (Peter Byrne/PA)

By Eleanor Barlow, PA

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have joined Sir David Attenborough for the official naming of a polar research ship the public voted to call Boaty McBoatface.

The ship was named the RRS Sir David Attenborough, chosen after the public selection was vetoed, at a ceremony at the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead, Merseyside, on Thursday.

The 93-year-old presenter, accompanied by daughter Susan, attended the ceremony to see the ship named in his honour.

Speaking before the naming ceremony, William said: “As last week’s climate protests the world over and yesterday’s report on our oceans and frozen regions demonstrated, there has never been a more important moment for this ship to get to work, and there is no person more fitting for this beacon of scientific research to be named after than you, David.

“You have shown us how awe-inspiring the natural world is, and also how fragile and endangered it is, and you have inspired us all to do as much as we possibly can to protect it.

“It is my immense privilege and relief to welcome Sir David Attenborough, rather than Boaty McBoatface, to speak.”

Large crowds gathered for the naming ceremony in Birkenhead, Merseyside (Peter Byrne/PA)

Addressing crowds who had come to see the ship, Sir David said: “It’s no news to any of you that the world is facing great, great problems and the most aware of that are the young people of today, who will inherit this world.

“Great problems require great research and facts in order to solve them.

“That’s what this astonishing ship will be here to do, to find out the facts and find the science with which to deal with problems that are facing the world today and will increasingly do so tomorrow.

A champagne bottle hits the hull of the RRS Sir David Attenborough to officially name the vessel (Peter Byrne/PA)

“There could be no more important function for any ship, anywhere in the world, than those which are going to be dealt with by this remarkable ship, at the cutting edge of science.”

He said it is the “greatest possible honour” that the ship carries his name.

Kate, the ship’s sponsor, formally named the vessel and a bottle of champagne was smashed against the hull to mark the occasion.

Sir David said it was a huge honour to have a vessel capable of such important research named after him (Peter Byrne/PA)

The duke and duchess were given a tour of the ship and met engineers, including young apprentices, who were involved in the build.

They also met scientists, schoolchildren and heard from the ship’s captains and crew members about its ice-breaking capabilities and navigation systems.

Mackenzie Grieman, an ice core scientist with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), and colleague Rob Mulvaney showed the royals ice core which is 85,000 years old.

Ms Grieman said: “You can hear the carbon dioxide in them as it crackles and pops.”

She said carbon dioxide levels in ice core can be monitored and the levels today are the highest they have ever been.

As he held a piece of the core, William said: “It’s quite hard to know how to treat an 85,000-year-old piece of ice that’s melting in your hand.”

The royals also saw the miniature submarine which was given the name Boaty McBoatface, after it was vetoed for the main ship despite 124,000 people voting for it in a public poll.

Alexander Brearley, physical oceanographer for BAS, and Eleanor Frajka-Williams, physical research scientist for the National Oceanography Centre, explained the work of the submarine to the couple.

Mr Brearley said: “They had really good insight and asked really good questions.”

On the bridge of the ship, William took a seat in the driving chair while Kate watched on and joked: “Shall I leave you to it?”

The RRS David Attenborough, which is owned by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and operated by the BAS, will enable world-leading research to be carried out in Antarctica and the Arctic over the next 25 to 30 years.



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