Just moments after Princess Beatrice announced her engagement, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge carried out an engagement in Birkenhead on Thursday. The appearance marks Prince William and Kate's first joint engagement this autumn. They were joined by Sir David Attenborough for the naming ceremony of the polar research ship the public voted to call Boaty McBoatface. However, the name was vetoed and the ship was officially named the RRS Sir David Attenborough in a ceremony at the Cammell Laird shipyard in Merseyside.
Prince William and Kate step onboard the ship
The Duchess, 37, had the honour of christening the ship with a bottle of champagne. She previously carried out the tradition for the naming of the Royal Princess cruise ship in Southampton, during one of her last engagements before she gave birth to Prince George in 2013. After christening the ship, the Duke and Duchess met with school children, dressed as penguins, from St George’s Primary School in Wirral. Kate couldn’t contain her giggles as she watched them perform their dance routine from the stage. She later received a posy from two of the pupils, Lily McStein and Oscar He, both eight.
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Oscar told HELLO! that the Duchess "thought it was really funny when we were all dancing and said they were really proud of them all standing there." They were also really excited to see Sir David Attenborough and said they were fans of his documentaries.
The royals were given a tour of the ship
Owned by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and operated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the RRS Sir David Attenborough will enable world-leading research to be carried out in Antarctica and the Arctic over the next 25 to 30 years. The royals were given a tour of the ship and met a team of engineers, including young apprentices, who have been involved in the build. They also met scientists, who demonstrated the state-of-the-art equipment used to carry out research, and schoolchildren involved in the British Antarctic Survey's (BAS) Polar Explorer programme.
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The royal couple then heard from the ship's captains and crew members about its ice-breaking capabilities and navigation systems before attending the official ceremony. Speaking before the naming ceremony, Prince William said: "We are of course here to celebrate a true British marvel. One that is strong, sturdy, and incredibly well-engineered that deepens our understanding of the impact our behaviour has on the world around us, and arms us with the facts to do something about it, an icon capable of feats not seen before and potentially never seen again. And no – I'm not talking about you David. Those words wouldn't do you and your lifetime's work justice!
"The RRS Sir David Attenborough is a testament to the cutting-edge science and engineering expertise right here on Merseyside. It is also a testament to the UK’s world-leading role on polar research. Through this state-art-of-the-art new ship, the British Antarctic Survey will help to expand global knowledge of the polar oceans, and the impact of climate change on this crucial region. As last week's climate protests the world over, and yesterday's report on our oceans and frozen regions demonstrated, there has never been a more important moment for this ship to get to work.
"And there is no person more fitting for this beacon of scientific research to be named after than you, David. You have shown us how awe-inspiring the natural world is, and also how fragile and endangered it is. And you have inspired us all to do as much as we possibly can to protect it. I'm referring to the hugely impressive ship behind us, named in your honour, that Catherine and I have just had the pleasure of looking around."
Addressing crowds who had come to see the ship, Sir David said: "It's no news to any of you that the world is facing great, great problems and the most aware of that are the young people of today, who will inherit this world. Great problems require great research and facts in order to solve them. That's what this astonishing ship will be here to do, to find out the facts and find the science with which to deal with problems that are facing the world today and will increasingly do so tomorrow.
Sir David addressed the crowds
"There could be no more important function for any ship, anywhere in the world, than those which are going to be dealt with by this remarkable ship, at the cutting edge of science." He said it is the "greatest possible honour" that the ship carries his
What will the ship be used for?
The RRS Sir David Attenborough, which cost around £200 million to build, is set to act as a "floating research fleet", allowing scientists to study the world's oceans and understand more about climate change. It was commissioned by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), built by shipbuilding company Cammell Laird to a Rolls-Royce design, and will be operated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). Housing state-of-the-art equipment, the ship will be available to the UK research community and allow scientists to remotely deploy robotic instruments to areas humans cannot access.
The royal couple were joined by Sir David Attenborough
Why is it needed?
The vessel is set to replace two other polar research ships: The RRS James Clark Ross, which is nearing the end of its 25-year lifespan, and the RRS Ernest Shackleton, which was returned to its owners GC Rieber this year after 20 years of service. The ship, according to BAS, has better fuel efficiency compared to its older counterparts and is expected to save more than £100 million in operating costs over its 30-year lifespan. It will operate in both Antarctica and the Arctic and will be able to endure up to 60 days in sea ice without being refuelled.
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What are its features?
Weighing around 10,400 tonnes - that is 1,400 elephants combined – the research ship hosts a wide range of specialist scientific equipment that will allow researchers to study the ocean, seafloor and atmosphere. Robotic submarines and marine gliders will gather information on ocean conditions and marine life for scientists working in the ship's onboard laboratories, while airborne robots and environmental monitoring systems will provide data on the surrounding environment.
A huge crowd appeared to see the unveiling
Measuring 129m long, it is made up of one million pieces of steel and has 30km (18.6 miles) of piping and 750km (466 miles) of electrical and data cables. The ship has beds for up to 30 crew and 60 scientists and support staff. It will also be able to deploy and recover large remotely-operated marine vehicles.
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What happened to Boaty McBoatface?
The royals appeared to be in great spirits
Despite topping a public poll in 2016, the name was vetoed as the moniker for the polar research ship. Initially suggested as a joke by a voter, Boaty was the out-and-out favourite, amassing more than 124,000 votes in a poll conducted by NERC. Jo Johnson, who was science minister at the time, said the suggestions for the name of the vessel had "captured the imaginations", but added that Boaty McBoatface would instead explore the polar seas as a yellow submarine.
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Sir David and the royals took part in a short walkabout
The minisub has since performed its first mission, investigating water flow and turbulence in the dark depths of the Orkney Passage, a 2.17 mile-deep region of the Southern Ocean. Boaty will continue its scientific missions in the polar regions alongside RRS Sir David Attenborough.
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