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Democracy Has Failed the RRS Boaty McBoatface

Research vessel from the NERC's "Name Our Ship" poll.Research vessel from the NERC's "Name Our Ship" poll.
Research vessel from the NERC's "Name Our Ship" poll.Photograph courtesy of the National Environment Research Council

Last March, the U.K.’s National Environment Research Council opened a poll up to the public, asking that they come up with an “inspirational” title for its new ship. And the title they came up with was Boaty McBoatface—by a wide margin. It received over 124,000 votes, more than four times as much as the runner up, Poppy-Mai.

Unfortunately for voters, however, their chosen name probably won’t make it onto the ship.

“You won’t be surprised to know that we want something that fits the mission and captures the spirit of scientific endeavor,” U.K. science minister Jo Johnson told the Telegraph, suggesting that ministers won’t endorse the winning name. Before the poll was launched, Johnson described the research ship as “a leap forward in securing Britain’s place as a world leader in marine and climate change science.”


The name Boaty McBoatface was originally suggested by former BBC presenter James Hand, who has “apologized profusely” since it became a runaway hit in the poll. But it wasn’t the only humorous suggestion. RRS It’s bloody cold in here made it into the top five with more than 10,000 votes. Other gems included RRS I Like Big Boats and I Cannot Lie, RRS Boat, and RRS Boaty McBoatface the return.