Famous ship is preparing for Antarctica mission

©Kevin McGlynn

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A polar research ship named in honour of Sir David Attenborough has generated a wave of excitement onshore.

The Royal Research Ship (RRS) Sir David Attenborough was spotted off the coast on Tuesday having sailed up from Holyhead as it spends two weeks on sea trials around the west coast of Scotland and the Celtic Sea.

The 129-metre vessel, owned by the Natural Environment Research Council and operated by British Antarctic Survey, was seen on Tuesday by sharp-eyed members of SAMS, the Scottish Association for Marine Science.

Since then, it has generated a buzz having been spotted from Oban, Lismore, Mull, and around Lochaline. On Thursday, she headed toward the Isle of Skye for further trials as the crew from the British Antarctic Survey carries out tests on the ship.

These include anchoring, manoeuvring and dynamic positioning, as well as other engineering systems, such as freshwater making, that cannot be tested while in port.

It is all ahead of a maiden voyage to Antarctica in November.

After the sea trials, the ship will return to Holyhead, before heading to the Arctic for extensive ‘ice trials’.

The ship is forever associated with ‘Boaty McBoatface’. The unusual moniker followed a campaign in 2016 for the public to come up with a name for the UK’s next world-class polar research ship. The suggestion of Boaty McBoatface quickly gained traction on Twitter.

Due to its popularity, Boaty McBoatface was the name awarded to one of its ALRs ‘Autosub Long Range’ autonomous vehicles which it can carry on board. Boaty is one of three ‘ALR’s’ capable of travelling thousands of kilometres on missions lasting several months at a time.

They can travel under ice and reach depths of 6,000 metres to explore 95 per cent of the ocean.

Sadly, Boaty McBoatface has not been on board this time. A spokesperson for the British Antarctic Survey explained that he is actually based at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton and is only onboard for certain research cruises.

You can follow the work and progress of the British Antarctic Survey on Twitter at twitter.com/BAS_News