The new polar research ship, RRS Sir David Attenborough, reaches its first construction milestone today, October 17, 2016, with the ceremonial laying of the keel.
Commissioned by NERC (Natural Environment Research Council), operated by British Antarctic Survey (BAS), and built by Cammell Laird, the RRS Sir David Attenborough is meant to transform UK polar research capability.
When it becomes operational in 2019, the new ship should provide a research platform from which scientists will tackle some of the most important issues facing humanity, including climate change, future sea level rise and the impact of environmental change on marine biodiversity.
Professor Jane Francis, Director of BAS, said: “This ceremony is a very exciting moment for our scientists, engineers and operational support teams. It is particularly exciting for our ships’ officers and crew because the new ship will not only be their place of work but it will also be their home for several months each year. This £200 m Government investment in the new research ship, and a suite of infrastructure projects that will support it, will be a huge transformation in the way that BAS delivers its science programmes and its provision of operational support to the UK science community.”
Construction will be officially started by world-renowned naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, after whom the ship is named. He will start the keel laying process by initiating the lifting by crane of the first hull unit, weighing approximately 100 tonnes, on to the construction berth. This unit includes part of the ships keel and bottom shell plating and is the first of 97 units which will be erected to form the entire hull of the research ship.
One of the new technologies that will be deployed from RRS Sir David Attenborough is the National Oceanography Centre’s (NOC) Autosub Long Range (ALR) autonomous underwater vehicle which will be used by oceanographers to measure ocean and seabed properties over ocean scales. This ALR will be named Boaty McBoatface and will be the focal point on a new £1m Government-funded Polar Explorer Programme, an educational initiative that aims to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and citizens by engaging young people with the RRS Sir David Attenborough and polar science.