Last Spring the British public took part in a major vote - one that would have profound consequences for generations to come. No, not the EU referendum, but the competition held by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to name their new £200m polar research ship.
Of course, everyone knows what happened next: The vote became hugely popular, and the winning name was none-other than Boaty McBoatface.
Yes, the British public are both brilliant and awful, simultaneously.
In the end, the actual ship was never actually given the embarrassing name as NERC and the government used a get-out clause to pick something more sensible. When they announced the campaign, they said they wanted a name that was “inspirational” and related to environmental and polar science. They were also keen to point out that it wasn’t really a competition or a public vote - but more a chance for the general public to “inform decision making”. Which is fair enough, but annoyingly undermines my Brexit joke in the first paragraph.
So they instead named the ship the RRS Sir David Attenborough - because who is going to complain about naming it after the greatest living Englishman? In a nice sop to the public’s enthusiasm however, NERC did decide to bestow the Boaty name on an autonomous submarine that would operate from the ship.
So in the end, everyone was happy. But this did get us wondering though: What else could the ship have ended up being called? What other names had the public been thinking of?
Amazingly, NERC has released the full results dataset to Giz UK thanks to a freedom of information request, meaning that we can exclusively reveal the full results - and see what else was in the running.
It turns out that Boaty McBoatface was by some distance the most popular name - which yielded 124109 “likes” by the time the vote ended. That’s 31% of the 397991 votes cast in total.
In second place was Poppy-Mai - with 39866 votes. This was the name of a 16 month old who sadly died of cancer last year, and whose story also attracted wide support on social media. In third place with 15774 likes was Henry Worsley, named for the polar explorer who also died last year. David Attenborough came fourth - with 11023 likes.
Mercifully, some other funny names did perform well: “Its bloody cold here”, “USAIN BOAT”, and “BOATIMUS PRIME” all made the Top 10, and “I Like Big Boats & I Cannot Lie” came in at number 11.
“NICOLAS CAGE” scored a respectable 1893 votes, though disappointingly “Shia LaBoat” only got 9.
Perhaps the most curious high-performing name was “CATALINA DE ARAGON”, which is the Spanish name of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife. Perhaps some people are still upset about the Spanish Armada?
Here’s the full Top 50 (with the number of likes next to each):
- Boaty McBoatface 124109
- Poppy-mai 39886
- Henry Worsley 15774
- David Attenborough 11023
- Its bloody cold here 10679
- USAIN BOAT 8710
- BOATIMUS PRIME 8365
- Katharine Giles 7687
- CATALINA DE ARAGON 7055
- I Like Big Boats&I Cannot Lie 6452
- Pillar of Autumn 5823
- What Iceberg? 5250
- Boaty McBoatface The Return 4730
- Boat 4507
- Pingu 4343
- Poppy-Mai - Warrior Princess 4287
- Thanks For All The Fish 4236
- BIG METAL FLOATY THINGY-THING 3909
- Ice Ice Baby 3673
- Boatasaurus Rex 3371
- Notthetitanic 3201
- Boat Marley and the Whalers 2895
- Clifford the Big Red Boat 2427
- BippityBoppity FloatilyBoatily 2302
- MOTÃ–RBOAT 2192
- Millennium Falcon 2045
- I'M THE CAPTAIN NOW 2020
- NICOLAS CAGE 1893
- flying spaghetti monster 1837
- red dwarf 1770
- CALL OF CTHULHU 1763
- Netflix And Endure Sub-Zero 1696
- Icey Smashy-smash 1578
- Dr John Rae 1558
- BOATBACK MOUNTAIN 1498
- Steve Prescott 1413
- Boaty O'Boatface 1383
- Ice To See You 1329
- Titanic 2: The Revenge 1272
- Mostly Harmless 1160
- Slippery when wet 1091
- IMMACRACKDATICE 1054
- Tiffany Aching 1049
- DORA THE POLAR EXPLORER 983
- Princess poppy-mai 948
- Fish 'n' Chips 906
- Gnarly Narwhal 894
- Tom Crean 869
- Do you want ice with that? 847
- Ada Lovelace 836
And here’s the full list of results, so you can see the full range of the internet’s creativity and trolling:
Of course… this isn’t the full story. Before a potential name could be listed on the NERC website, the organisation sensibly pre-vetted submissions. And now, having the full list of submissions, it is very easy to see why they did it. It appears that there must have been an automatic filter, but that still didn’t stop around 15 people trying to name the boat Adolf Hitler.
Here’s some other favourites/most despairing from a quick skim through the list of everything submitted:
- “a actual luv boats mate”
- “ACTUALLY A DOLPHIN Actually A Really Serious Ship Actually Very Much Gravitas Ad hoc”
- “Cheeky Nandos”
- “Diana, Princess of Wales”
- “DON'T TRUST THE INTERNET”
- “Full Communism”
- “Grab your Boat you've pulled”*
- “Hashtag Boat”
- “Hiter [sic] Did Nothing Wrong”
- “ILLEGAL DRUG BOAT”
- “John Barrowman”
- “Malvinas Argentinas”
- “OUR IRON LADY”
- “SAIL HYDRA”
- “Shrek 2 Directors Cut”
- “Titanic 2 Electric Boogaloo”
- “WASTE OF PUBLIC MONEY”**
- “WATER 9/11”
- “Your Mum”
* Surely a better name for a tug boat?
And here’s the full document, which really goes a long way to explain why democracy doesn’t really work:
Let us know your favourite rejected suggestion in the comments below if you like.