British Research Ship May Be Called ‘Boaty McBoatface,’ Because Internet

The opportunity to undermine the dignity of a grand ship tasked with warning the public about climate catastrophe, of course, proves too tempting for the Internet.

Democracy is great for a lot of things, like government. Sure, our bumbling republic is molasses-slow, but we’ve avoided that terrifying fascist nonsense you get with an overly-powerful executive. (At least, so far.) However, when it comes to the ungovernable second-grader that is the Internet, democracy’s “crowd-sourcing” can go awry. See: “RRS Boaty McBoatface,” the name chosen by over 27,000 voters for the British National Environment Research Council’s $290 million polar research ship. Scientists—profound in their understanding of the mechanics of the natural world, less so with meme-ability—turned to public opinion in order to name the 420-foot vessel. Many expected the poll to be dominated by marine research nerds, a sober bunch, perhaps resulting in tribute to Sir Earnest Shackleton or Henry Worsley, the explorer who died this year. But idea of undermining the dignity of a grand ship tasked with warning the public about climate catastrophe was, apparently, too much for the Internet to handle. So, yeah: RSS Boaty McBoatface.

In light of the results, the NERC walked back the contest, claiming it was meant to produce suggestions, not final names. That is, like a Buzzfeed poll, the results are non-binding. (Don’t even worry about that “You’re a Miranda!” death sentence.) Lord West, who is a former British sea lord because that’s actually a real thing, noted in a BBC interview that he’d “probably plump for a rather more famous name.” So, while ultimate turgidity may lie with “Boaty McBoatface” and the public vote, ultimately, the ship will bear a suitably serious moniker. RRS Boaty McBoatface—a ship doomed by establishment marine politics that shall sail forever the raucous seas of the World Wide Web.

Update: On May 5, 2016, it was reported that, despite the popularity of “Boaty McBoatface,” the £200m UK polar research vessel in question would be named the RSS Sir David Attenborough, honoring  the influential naturalist and broadcaster. In a sliver of hope for the democratic process, the “Boaty” name will live on, as the name of one of the RSS Attenborough’s submarines.