Boaty McBoatface, an Actual British Research Submarine, Makes Surprising Climate Change Discovery

The silly name was chosen by the British public in 2016 for a new research vessel, but it was instead bestowed on a smaller submarine

Boaty McBoatface
Photo: National Oceanography Centre/Twitter

Boaty McBoatface may have started as a joke, but its latest findings are no laughing matter.

The British research submarine, whose name was famously chosen by the public, found a significant link between Antarctic winds and rising sea levels in its inaugural mission, according to findings published Monday in the scientific journal PNAS.

Boaty McBoatface trekked through 112 miles of mountainous underwater valleys in Antarctica on a three-day mission in 2017, measuring temperature, saltiness and turbulence in the depths of the Southern Ocean, according to a release from the University of Southampton, a partner on the research project.

Data collected on the trip revealed a mechanism that let the strong winds blowing over the ocean increase turbulence deep in its waters, causing warm water at mid-depths to mix with cold, dense water found deeper.

“The resulting warming of the water on the sea bed is a significant contributor to rising sea levels,” the data found, according to the release.

“Our study is an important step in understanding how the climate change happening in the remote and inhospitable Antarctic waters will impact the warming of the oceans as a whole and future sea level rise,” said project leader Professor Alberto Naveira Garabato from the University of Southampton.

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Boaty McBoatface made headlines in 2016 when the silly moniker was overwhelmingly chosen by the public after the U.K.’s Natural Environment Research Council opened up naming rights for a new research vessel. (Other choices included Usain Bolt, Ice Ice Baby and Notthetitanic.)

“We’re looking for an inspirational name that exemplifies the work it will do. The ship could be named after a local historical figure, movement, or landmark — or a famous polar explorer or scientist,” the NERC wrote at the time.

Boaty McBoatface was suggested by communications manager James Hand, who later tweeted an apology.

Though the NERC opted instead to name the $287 million vessel RRS Sir David Attenborough, it did bestow the name upon a yellow submarine operating from the ship.

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