They asked and the British people spoke. No, not Brexit, we are of course talking about Boaty McBoatface. Although the illustrious Arctic research ship didn’t actually end up being named that – it has been named after another illustrious Briton, Sir David Attenborough – the name didn’t go to waste and has been bestowed upon the ship’s research submarine.
And the yellow robotic submarine is currently preparing for a one-of-a-kind challenge to take place in 2018 or 2019: to be the world’s first research vehicle to travel under the ice from one side of the Arctic Basin to the other.
“The NOC [National Oceanography Centre] has a long history of innovation in marine robotics, and Boaty McBoatface is the latest addition to the Autosub family of robotic underwater vehicles developed here in Southampton,” said Professor Russell Wynn from the NOC, the Attenborough and Boaty’s base, in a statement. “The Autosubs have a proven track record of pioneering science missions, including under ice and to the deepest parts of the ocean.”
This will be the first time an autonomous robot sub has attempted to cross the basin fully submerged under the ice, as none previously has had the endurance to attempt the 2,500-kilometer (1,500 miles) journey. The team behind the project is aware of the high risk but are confident it will succeed.
“There could well be some dramas ahead for those people who plan to follow Boaty on his missions. We do occasionally lose our vehicles, and they can get caught in fishing nets from time to time,” Professor Wynn told the BBC.
“But this is what we do. These vehicles are like the Mars rovers of the oceans which we send out into hostile places to get their data that they then send back to us via satellite. And, yes, we are quite likely to have some highs and some lows.”
Boaty McBoatface out for testing in the Solent. NOC