For a six-month deployment to Antarctica, the research ship RRS Sir David Attenborough has set sail to study the risks associated with potential sea level rises and threats to marine biodiversity.
With a 30-person crew and up to 60 scientists and support personnel on board, the £200 million polar research ship departed from its home port of Harwich in Essex on Sunday.
By Christmas, it should reach to Rothera Research Station on the Antarctic peninsula after stopping in Portsmouth, Hampshire, to pick up fuel.
Before it departed, the ship’s captain, Professor Dame Jane Francis, stated that researchers were looking at tipping points “when the earth falls into irreversible change,” like the west Antarctic ice sheet.
Because the melting of that ice sheet will cause the water level to rise by three to five meters worldwide, she asserted, “Whatever occurs in Antarctica won’t just stay in Antarctica; it will effect us all.”
“Global sea level is increasing rather continuously right now. It’s approximately 3mm to 4mm each year, which doesn’t sound like much, but that would inundate quite a few coastlines throughout the world,” she continued.
The professor continued, “We really need to understand more about how climate change is harming Antarctica, and that’s what I hope comes out of this next journey.
By considering sea ice, ocean dynamics, and weather, the ship will employ artificial intelligence to offer the quickest and most fuel-effective routes between sites.
The name of the ship’s robotic submarine was chosen over Boaty McBoatface, which was the result of an internet referendum.
Prof. Francis stated: “I think the decision to name it Sir David Attenborough was absolutely excellent and it’s a great honor to have a ship with his name on it. It did draw attention to the ship.”