Remember how an internet meme hijacked a naming poll for the new research ship for the Natural Environment Research Council?
Eventually, the ship was named the David Attenborough, but one of its unmanned underwater vehicles was named Boaty McBoatface.
Well, now the colorfully named UUV has made a significant find:
Remember Boaty McBoatface? In the years since the naming snafu over a research vessel grabbed international headlines, Boaty has been off gathering crucial deep-sea data on the effects of climate change.
Now, the findings from Boaty’s first mission are out — and they shed light on how Antarctic winds that are strengthening due to climate change are impacting sea levels.
But before we dive into what Boaty found, let’s remember how it got here.
Back in 2016, Britain’s Natural Environment Research Council asked the public for help naming a new cutting-edge polar research ship. Shackleton, Endeavor and Falcon were among the contenders put forth, as NPR reported at the time. But the Internet had another idea. Voters in the online poll overwhelmingly threw their support behind “Boaty McBoatface.”
The U.K.’s science minister at the time, Jo Johnson, vetoed the people’s choice, saying the vessel needed a name that was more “suitable.” The ship was ultimately named Sir David Attenborough, after the well-known natural historian.
But the council did pay homage to the Internet’s extraordinary naming powers by naming a smaller, more modest vessel Boaty McBoatface. And the autonomous yellow submarine has had a very successful maiden voyage.
“In recent decades, winds blowing over the Southern Ocean have been getting stronger due to the hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica and increasing greenhouse gases,” the researchers said in a statement.
They wanted to see how these stronger winds on the surface were impacting the environment far below the waves — and whether that deep ocean activity was contributing to rising sea levels.
So they sent Boaty into underwater valleys, traveling to depths of up to 4,000 meters (nearly 2.5 miles). Boaty’s longest journey took three days and traveled 180 km, or more than 110 miles.
Boaty was able to pinpoint a previously unknown way in which this mixing is causing water to warm up across large areas, she said. Usually, deeper, colder water mixes with shallower, warmer water — think of vast amounts of water moving up and down.
Well done Boaty.