RRS Sir David Attenborough

RRS Sir David Attenborough leaves port to conduct sea trials before maiden voyage

Image credit: pa

Britain’s most advanced polar exploration ship, the RRS Sir David Attenborough, will leave its shipyard on Wednesday to conduct technical sea trials before making its maiden voyage to Antarctica next year.

Operated by British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the £200m polar ship has the potential to transform UK research in the polar regions and in particular will conduct missions that are critical for understanding and making sense of the changing climate.

It is due to spend around 14 days undergoing technical trials off the coast of North Wales, during which time shipyard engineers and BAS mariners will put the ship through its paces, performing operational checks on the propulsion, steering, engineering and navigation systems.

When technical tests are complete, the crew will take over and spend 50 days intensive training at Holyhead Port before embarking on operational and scientific equipment trials around the Irish Sea.

The vessel has been built with a twin-shaft hybrid diesel-electric propulsion system and will be fully equipped with the latest instrumentation for the purposes of carrying out research in polar regions.

RRS Sir David Attenborough

Image credit: pa

The ship has improved icebreaking capability and greater endurance over the existing polar research vessel and is capable of carrying a helicopter and enough capacity for approximately 900 cubic metres of cargo.

The power plant is able to run with different configurations depending on the mission and operating conditions.

RRS Sir David Attenborough can travel at a maximum speed of 17.5 knots (32.4 km/h) in open water and is able to break up to one-metre thick level ice.

After an arduous four-year construction period, the ship is finally due to embark on its maiden voyage in November 2021.

BAS director Professor Dame Jane Francis said: “This magnificent ship will take UK scientists deep into the heart of the ice-covered polar seas. With state-of-the-art technology they will investigate the dramatic changes in the polar oceans.

“This exciting moment marks a major milestone in the construction as so many people have worked tirelessly over the last four years to bring our new ship to fruition. As we seek to find answers to the current climate crisis, this ship will take us to the ends of the Earth to seek answers and to help us understand our future world.”

David McGinley, chief executive of Cammell Laird, said: “This vessel is a true celebration of British expertise – from the team who built it right through to the scientific community that will call this ship home”.

During the early days of its construction, an online naming poll was infamously undertaken, with submissions accepted from the public via the internet.

Far and away the most popular name was Boaty McBoatface, although this option was ultimately rejected by BAS in favour of Sir David Attenborough.

However, the Boaty McBoatface moniker was applied to an autonomous submarine which will be carried on board the RRS Sir David Attenborough and which has already made unique discoveries around the impact of Antarctic winds on climate change.

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