Boaty McBoatface is back – and he’s going on an epic journey. The bright yellow submarine named after the collective imagination of the UK is prepping to chart the deepest undersea currents off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Considering that these ancient currents help to regulate the movement of heat from the atmosphere to the deep ocean, our ability to understand them is of vital importance to the future of the world and our own species. It’s definitely not an overstatement, then, to say that Boaty’s research may one day save the world – which makes this sunny vessel a bonafide hero.
The quest, which begins this week, won’t be easy, though. This little dude (or dudette?) will have to navigate through the treacherous Orkney Passage, a major exit route for water that sinks off the coast offshore from Antarctica. The pressures will be extreme, the mercury will hit the bottom, the current will be fast, the rocks will be jagged – and there’s always a chance a giant squid will try and take him out.
Still, at least if one of them gets taken out, there’ll be two more mechanical clones left to finish the journey. Boaty, in a manner of speaking, has three lives, all developed at the UK's National Oceanography Center.
These three extremely high-tech subs are almost completely autonomous, which means that they won’t require a pilot in person or, for the most part, directing them from the safety of the mothership. Far from just documenting the journey through the deep and dark abyss, these intrepid submarines will map their cavernous surroundings in 3D.
All three are currently snoozing aboard the RRS James Clark Ross, the UK’s current polar research vessel, which will eventually be replaced by the RRS David Attenborough. If the first Boaty successfully completes its mission, the other two will be used to patrol other oceans around the world, all alone, for many weeks and months at a time.
It’s fun to think how far little Boaty has come along. Back in 2016, the world stood aghast as the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) decided to name their brand new polar research vessel after Sir David Attenborough and not – as 124,000 members of the public decreed through a vote – Boaty McBoatface.
This pertinent, cautionary tale about the dissolution of democracy did have a happy ending, however, as NERC announced that the ship’s three remotely operated undersea vehicles will be given the humorous moniker instead. Boaty McBoatface lived on after all, and now at least one of them is ready for its big journey into the frigid waters of the great south.
Image in text: Can't wait for the cartoon! NERC
[H/T: BBC News]