RSS Sir David Attenborough: Polar research ship's maiden voyage to Antarctica

Britain’s new polar research ship, the RRS Sir David Attenborough, departs the UK this week for its maiden voyage to Antarctica.
The RRS Sir David Attenborough Credit: ITV News Anglia

Britain’s new polar research ship, the RRS Sir David Attenborough, is leaving Harwich for its maiden voyage to Antarctica.

The vessel, with 66 crew and personnel on board, will make a short stop at Portsmouth to take on fuel before setting sail for the Falkland Islands.

During its first mission south the state-of-the-art research vessel will transfer station teams, food, cargo and fuel to British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) five research stations.

The ship recently headed up the Thames for a three-day pre-COP26 event in Greenwich in partnership with the National Maritime Museum Credit: ITV News Anglia

Prof Dame Jane Francis, director of BAS, said: "We are so excited to be waving off the RRS Sir David Attenborough on its first Antarctic mission. This historic moment marks the next chapter of ship-borne research for British Antarctic Survey."

The ship will also fly a rainbow flag in celebration of Polar Pride Day, which is on Thursday, an initiative launched by the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office in 2020 to celebrate the contribution of LGBTQ+ people to polar research in the British Antarctic Territory and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

Will Whatley, captain of the vessel, said: "This is such a proud moment for the crew of RRS Sir David Attenborough. This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for and to finally be sailing the ship to Antarctica is an incredible feeling."

The new ship is named after the TV naturalist and presenter Sir David Attenborough.

Back in 2016, in an online poll, the public voted to call the ship "Boaty McBoatface" but it was overruled by ministers. As a compromise, one of the boat's mini long-range submarines has been named Boaty McBoatface instead.

The RRS Sir David Attenborough is due to return to the UK in June 2022 at the end of the Antarctic season.