Culture

Boaty McBoatface Has Won The Boat-Naming Contest, But Organisers Are Already Backing Out

"[This is] the biggest injustice of democracy the world has ever seen."

Patriots of the internet, I have some good news and some bad news for you on this solemn morning. The good: Boaty McBoatface has found its rightful place as the winner of the UK Natural Environment Research Council’s $380 million boat naming contest. After two months of voting, James Hand’s now-infamous suggestion earned itself more than 124,000 votes easily toppling noble (yet obviously inferior) contenders like RRS David Attenborough, RRS Boatimus Prime, and RRS Usain Boat.

The bad: this could all have been for nothing. Speaking in the wake of Boaty’s valiant victory, the UK science minister Jo Johnson overnight told The Telegraph it was “unlikely” the public vote would be honoured. “You won’t be surprised to know that we want something that fits the mission and captures the spirit of scientific endeavour,” he said. “The public has come up with some fantastic and very imaginative suggestions [for the name]. We are reviewing all of them. We will come to a decision in due course.”

As we noted last month, this is well in line with the terms and conditions of the vote which state the NERC reserve the right to pick their own name. However that doesn’t exactly soften the blow. Aggrieved by the perceived lack of commitment towards democratic decision, the public are in all-out revolt.

This decision is now a particularly tough one for the NERC. After all, the boat was originally intended to be a source of pride for the British people and the initial calls to name it were spurred by a sense of civic duty and community. “With the eyes of the world on this ship, this campaign will give everyone across the UK the opportunity to feel part of this exciting project and the untold discoveries it will unearth,” Jo Johnson said upon the competition’s launch.

The outpouring of support for Boaty McBoatface has objectively achieved this state of unity not only in the UK but around the world. It’s provided the scientific research centre with unimaginable publicity and undoubtedly enriched the public’s knowledge of at least one current pursuit in environmental science. This is valuable. It should be respected.

On the other hand:

The NERC will announce their final decision on the name soon.