The RRS Sir David Attenborough, a polar research vessel which is the biggest civilian ship to be built in the UK for 30 years, has been launched into the River Mersey.
British wildlife broadcaster Sir David Attenborough launched the 10,000-tonne hull of the ship which was named after him into the water on 14 July, pressing a button to release it from the Cammell Laird yard in Birkenhead.
Sir David told the BBC: “Our future will be affected by what people working on this ship will be discovering in years to come.”
“When 100 years ago this country sent people down to the South Pole, we were the pioneers in exploring the Antarctic,” Sir David told the outlet.
“When we did so, I suspect the reason we did was the South Pole seemed as far away as it could possibly get to be on this planet.
“Now, 100 years later, we realise that remote place is, in fact, key to the whole understanding of the planet. What goes on down there affects the whole of the Earth.”
Though the £200m ship is now named after Sir David, it was only last year that the Natural Environment Research Council ran a campaign for members of the public to vote on what it should be called. Top of the poll was the catchy name ‘Boaty McBoatface’, but the government took the decision to honour Attenborough instead.
‘Boaty McBoatface’ has not gone to waste though, as a remote controlled yellow submersible that can be launched from the ship has been given the title.
The ship, which will ‘support scientists working at both ends of the planet’, has been engineered to break through metre-thick sea ice. It will also be decked out with state-of-the-art scientific gear with a helipad, cranes, on-board labs and will be able to deploy subs.
Building work will continue in the water and an official handover of the finished ship is set to take place at the end of the year. Following this, the RRS Sir David Attenborough will be ready to go on sea trials and expeditions to the Arctic and the Antarctic.
Prof Dame Jane Francis, director of the British Antarctic Survey, said to the BBC: “We’ve now got a real state-of-the-art ship and so we’ll be able to do a lot more science. We’ll be able to go into more remote areas. We’ll be able to do bigger projects. We really will be able to do frontier science that we haven’t been able to do in the past.”
Main photo: Stock image of Antarctica by Torsten Dederichs