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Boaty McBoatface Makes Discovery


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Noel King.


And I'm Rachel Martin with a story that just will not die. Yeah, we're talking about Boaty McBoatface. It came to be in 2016 when Britain's Natural Environment Research Council asked the public to help it name a new high-tech polar research vessel. The public, in its infinite wisdom, chose Boaty McBoatface. Britain's science minister said, no way. The vessel apparently needed a more, quote, "suitable name." But as a consolation, the British agency gave the name to a little yellow research submarine.

ELEANOR FRAJKA-WILLIAMS: Yeah. So Boaty McBoatface is the popular name for Autosub Long Range.

KING: That's Eleanor Frajka-Williams. She's with the UK's National Oceanography Centre. Now, that little submarine is making some news that has nothing to do with its name.

FRAJKA-WILLIAMS: It was the first mission and brought back an incredible wealth of data.

MARTIN: In 2017, Frajka-Williams and other researchers launched McBoatface deep into the Southern Ocean near Antarctica. The little Boaty that could had a big job. It travelled more than 110 miles to help scientists learn more about how stronger winds on the surface were impacting the deep sea and whether that ocean activity was contributing to rising sea levels.

FRAJKA-WILLIAMS: It was making measurements of turbulence and the ocean properties, temperature and salinity near the seabed. And it's a particularly unique instrument because we can use it to make a spatial picture.

KING: Meaning, McBoatface uncovered the way in which warm and cold seawater is mixing. So a serious scientific contribution from the sub with the silly name. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.