The name of a new British polar research vessel will be chosen by a panel of experts, even if the public overwhelmingly votes to call it Boaty McBoatface. Lord West, ex-First Sea Lord, said he was rather proud “silly names” had been suggested but hoped none were chosen.
The Natural Environment Research Council had urged people to name its ship in a competition, which saw Boaty McBoatface easily topping the poll. The final name will be selected by the NERC, according to competition rules.
Boaty McBoatface is currently leading with more than 27,000 votes, while the second place pick trails with around 3,000. The names Pingu, Usain Boat and It's Bloody Cold Here have also been put forward.
Lord West told BBC Radio 4's Today program: It's a typical thing of the Brits going mad - normally silly season, rather than this time of the year.
He said the NERC had only expected marine research fans to get involved.
I think I would probably go for an Arctic or Antarctic explorer - that would be appropriate - bearing in mind this is a key bit of research where we are probably leading the world, and we should all be very proud of it.
I'm rather proud that we have silly names going around, but I hope we don't select one.”
The state-of-the-art £200m vessel will be launched in 2019 to replace Royal Research Ships (RRS) Ernest Shackleton and James Clark Ross.
Launching the competition to name it last week, the NERC said it was looking for something inspirational - something that would exemplify the ship's work.
We are excited to hear what the public have to suggest and we really are open to ideas, the chief executive said.
On Sunday, the poll website crashed under the weight of people trying to cast their votes.
James Hand, a former BBC Radio Jersey presenter, was behind the suggestion of Boaty McBoatface but says he has since apologized to the NERC.
I've actually been speaking a bit to the people behind the website. I've apologized profusely. What I keep saying to people is, this is actually nothing to do with me. I made the suggestion but the storm that's been created, it's got legs of its own.
I just feel it's a very British thing, which a lot of people have pointed out.
Julia Maddock, acting associate director of communications and engagement at the NERC, responded to Mr. Hand's apology on Twitter, saying her organization was loving it.
In another tweet, she wrote: We wanted people to talk about our ship and get involved. We are delighted!
Hand said he was still thoroughly rooting” for his idea to be chosen but understood the public's choices were only ever a suggestion.
In second place, with more than 3,000 votes, is RRS Henry Worsley. Worsley died trying to make the first unassisted solo crossing of the Antarctic in January. Another of the more serious suggestions is RRS David Attenborough.
The 15,000-tonne, 128m-long vessel is being built at Cammell Laird on Merseyside.