Royal Research Ship (RRS) Sir David Attenborough, Polar Research Vesse

With her sea trials complete, in late October the UK’s new Polar Research ship, RRS Sir David Attenborough, paid a visit to the port of London ahead of her first deployment to the Antarctic this month. She tied up in Greenwich at the home of the Prime Meridian (Zero Longitude) to mark the beginning of the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow. Named after renowned UK broadcaster, naturalist, and environmental campaigner Sir David Attenborough, she is pictured above in the River Thames while on passage to Greenwich.

Built by Cammell Laird Shiprepairers & Shipbuilders Ltd, Birkenhead UK

Owned by UK Natural Environmental Research Council

Operated by British Antarctic Survey

LOA 129m

Beam 24m

GRT 15,000 tons

Classification: Polar Class 4

Propulsion: Polar Class 5 Rolls Royce diesel-electric, twin-screw with 2 x six-cylinder, four-stroke Bergen B33:45L6A   plus two nine-cylinder versions of the same engine. Total output 18,000 bhp at 750 rpm driving 2 controllable pitch propellors

Speed: Max 17.5 knots, service 13 knots

Endurance: 60 days

Crew: 28 plus provision for up to 60 scientists

Aviation support: 2 helicopters

Registered in Stanley, Falkland Islands

Cost: GBP 200 million


The vessel is equipped with state-of-the-art research equipment for subsea, seismic and acoustic surveys, including an acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP), a sub-bottom profiler, a scientific echo sounder, a biological multi-frequency and multi-beam echo sounder, a biological multi-beam sonar, an omnidirectional sonar, an ultra-short baseline (USBL) system, positioning and telemetry equipment, net monitoring equipment, and a meteorological weather station.

Sir David Attenborough, now aged 95, is pictured above with the crew of his namesake vessel looking over the remotely operated submarine named Marty McBoatface – a name initially tongue in cheek chosen for the ship from a UK poll but rejected by the Government. However, in the spirit of compromise, the name was granted to the submarine module.


In a short speech, Sir David commented that “he hoped world leaders meeting at COP26 would listen to the science and take action to curb global warming. I am indeed a very proud man to be standing in this remarkable vessel, to be associated in any way with best, the British Antarctic Survey. May I wish this ship and all who sail in her, and all the scientists who research on board, bon voyage on her forthcoming voyage to the Antarctic. I know that the findings made on this ship in the next few years will be of the greatest value and importance to the welfare of the world. Let us listen to the science.”

Feature image courtesy: Shipspotting / Bob Scott