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'Boaty McBoatface' leads public vote for name of new polar research vessel

A UK environmental research council has launched an online poll to name its new polar vessel - though it may regret the decision. Naming ideas for the new research ship range from "Boaty McBoatface" to "Big Shipinnit."

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) launched its public online poll on Saturday, giving creative minds and others a month to come up with suggestions for names for the government-funded ship. It is to be built at the Cammell Laird shipyard in Liverpool and is due to head off to Antarctica in 2019.

By Monday, "Boaty McBoatface," an idea submitted by former BBC radio presenter James Hand, was heading the list of suggestions with more than 27,000 votes. The website hosting the poll kept crashing as people tried to write in with their suggestions.

Alison Robinson, director of corporate affairs at NERC, the UK's leading funder of independent research, training and innovation in environmental science, said she was thrilled at the "enthusiasm and creativity" of the naming process.

"We've had thousands of suggestions made on the website since we officially launched. Many of them reflect the importance of the ship's scientific role by celebrating great British explorers and scientists. Others are more unusual, but we're pleased that people are embracing the idea in a spirit of fun," she said.

After appearing to apologize for his suggestion, Hand confirmed his pride in the name on Monday afternoon in a tweet:

There have been a number of serious scientific name suggestions, such as the current second-place name "

Henry Worsley"

, which has collected more than 3,000 votes. Worsley was a British explorer who died in January while attempting to complete the first solo and unaided crossing of the Antarctic.

Whatever its eventual name, the 128-meter-long, 200-million-pound ($287-million/255-million-euro) vessel will be an important addition to NERC's fleet. "Tonne-for-tonne, the ship - together with NERC's existing two bluewater research ships - will provide the UK with the most advanced floating research fleet in the world and will help put the UK at the forefront of ocean research for years to come," said a statement.

In the spirit of the "Boaty McBoatface" suggestion, others have followed with ideas such as "Its Bloody Cold Here," "What Iceberg," "Captain Haddock," "Big Shipinnit" and "Big Metal Floaty Thingy-thing."

Other suggestions can be made

on the NERC site

before April 16.

The site does contain a final warning: "The final name will be selected by NERC."

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