Scientists have gathered “unprecedented data” about some of the coldest oceanic abysses on Earth – thanks to Boaty McBoatface. The yellow submersible research vehicle returned home to the UK last week after its first voyage through the Antarctic Bottom Water, capturing data on temperature, speed of water flow and underwater turbulence in the Orkney Passage.
(Forbes / By Brid-Aine Parnell) — Boaty, as it’s fondly known, acquired its name when the National Environment Research Council (NERC) innocently ran a competition to name its newest polar research vessel, which went viral when the Internet tried to name it “Boaty McBoatface”. The NERC tried to ignore the popular vote and go with RRS Sir David Attenborough in honour of the nature show broadcaster, but there was a public outcry. The council somewhat relented in giving its new robotic research submarine the popular name.
Boaty is currently part of a seven-week expedition researching the dynamics of the Orkney Passage Outflow. The Orkney Passage is a region of the Southern Ocean that’s around 4,000 metres deep and about 500 miles from the Antarctic Peninsula and represents some of the coldest abyssal waters on the planet.
“The Orkney Passage is a key chokepoint to the flow of abyssal waters in which we expect the mechanism linking changing winds to abyssal water warming to operate. Our goal is to learn enough about these convoluted processes to represent them (for the first time) in the models that scientists use to predict how our climate will evolve over the 21st century and beyond,” explained Professor Alberto Naveira Garabato of the University of Southampton, lead scientist of the expedition, in a statement.