Minister likely to sink 'Boaty McBoatface'

Boaty McBoatface (Natural Environment Research Council)
Boaty McBoatface (Natural Environment Research Council)

The boat the internet dubbed 'Boaty McBoatface' is unlikely to take to the seas bearing such a unique name.

The UK's Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) last month asked the public to vote on a name for its new vessel. It didn't take long for pranksters to hijack the process, suggesting Boaty McBoatface.

The idea was to get the public interested in the boat's mission, which worked -- at least for a few days.

Yesterday the NERC revealed the results of the public vote. Boaty McBoatface won easily, with 124,109 votes. Second-place was RRS Poppy-Mai, named for a 16-month-old toddler with cancer, with 34,371 votes.

A suggestion to name it after Antarctic explorer Henry Worsley came third, 'It's Bloody Cold Here' fourth, and RRS David Attenborough in fifth. In all there were about 7000 suggestions.

UK Minister for Science Jo Johnson isn't impressed with the public's choice.

"The new royal research ship will be sailing into the world's iciest waters to address global challenges that affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people, including global warming, the melting of polar ice and rising sea levels," he says.

"That's why we want a name that lasts longer than a social media news cycle and reflects the serious nature of the science it will be doing."

Bob Ward, public relations expert at the London School of Economics, told The Guardian NERC should stick with Boaty McBoatface, because the public could have voted for something a lot worse.

"If a new name is chosen, that is saying: 'We don't trust the public,' but people would soon forget about it.

"On the other hand, if they keep the name, then the interest in the vessel will also endure. It doesn't have to be a problem for them, and it makes no difference to the vital work the ship will be carrying out."

Mr Johnson will make the final decision on the boat's name "in due course".