The remotely operated underwater research vessel known as Boaty McBoatface is preparing for its first research mission — an expedition into “some of the deepest and coldest abyssal ocean waters on earth.”
Boaty McBoatface, of course, was the moniker that emerged triumphant in an online poll meant to name the newest research ship in the U.K.’s Natural Environment Research Council fleet. But the council opted to overrule the will of the people, and named the ship the Royal Research Ship Sir David Attenborough instead.
As a consolation gesture, however, a smaller autonomous underwater vehicle was named Boaty McBoatface. So the name lives on — albeit in a way that makes less sense, because a submersible vehicle isn’t actually a boat. (Subby McSubface, anybody?)
The RRS Sir David Attenborough is still under construction, but Boaty McBoatface is already on the job.
The British Antarctic Survey explains that the submersible will be investigating “an abyssal current of Antarctic Bottom Water along the Orkney Passage,” as part of an expedition that begins Friday.
Antarctic Bottom Water is cold and dense, and its movement contributes to ocean circulation worldwide, the BAS writes. Boaty McBoatface will gather information on the intensity of turbulence in the Orkney Passage — information that could help improve climate change models.
“One of the most surprising features of the climate change that we are currently experiencing is that the abyssal waters of the world ocean have been warming steadily over the last few decades,” professor Alberto Naveira Garabato wrote in the press release. “Establishing the causes of this warming is important because the warming plays an important role in moderating the ongoing (and likely future) increases in atmospheric temperature and sea level around the globe.”
The BBC notes that there are actually three Boaty McBoatfaces:
“These machines can all be configured slightly differently depending on the science tasks they are given.
“The one that will initiate the ‘adventures of Boaty’ will head out of Punta Arenas, Chile, on Friday aboard Britain’s current polar ship, the RRS James Clark Ross.”
The U.K.’s National Oceanography Centre has designed a cartoon version of Boaty McBoatface to help teach children about marine research. According to The Guardian, a full-size, inflatable version of the submersible will “travel to events across the country.”