As the RRS James Clark Ross nears her 25-year lifespan, a newer ship must take on the helm of conducting Antarctic and Arctic research.

Named after one of the most revered natural historians in the world, the RRS Sir David Attenborough has set sail in hopes of collecting crucial research regarding climate change. A ship built with cutting-edge technology, an astonishing range of scientific capabilities, and the ability to reduce ship-borne environmental impacts, the RRS Sir David Attenborough aspires to bring light to the climate crisis.

Why the ship is a necessity

The global sea level has only increased since the 20th century. In the period between 1993 and 2018, the sea levels have grown about 3.2 inches. Furthermore, at the rate at which the global sea levels are rising, the numbers will increase at least 8 inches by 2100. The RRS Sir David Attenborough will conduct research on the rising sea levels to further prove the effects of climate change and better understand how it may alter the polar region. 

From atmospheric sciences to marine geology, the RRS Sir David Attenborough will bring factual answers to how these topics affect the world today. With a lifespan of about 30 years and a hull designed to break through ice up to 1 meter thick, the Royal Research Ship will spend its life traveling back and forth from the Arctic to Antarctica. Perhaps most stunning is the fact that the RRS Sir David Attenborough has over 750 square meters of laboratory space

The research fleet will spend the majority of its time in the most remote places in the world due to the area’s sparse data. These areas include the Southern Ocean, an ecosystem with untapped information. Inhospitable areas such as the Southern Ocean will serve to improve understanding oceanic and polar atmospheric processes. The RRS Sir David Attenborough aims to understand how the steep change in our polar oceans will change the world.

Sir David Attenborough’s statement

“It’s no news to any of you that the world is facing great, great problems,” David Attenborough starts before launching the research vessel. “And the most aware of that are the young people of today who will inherit this world,” he warns.

Attenborough then goes on to declare the role of the ship, “Great problems require great research in order to solve them. That’s what this astonishing ship will be here to do: to find out those facts. So there could be no more important function for any ship, anywhere in the world, than those that will be dealt with by this remarkable and cutting edge ship.

The RRS Sir David Attenborough may be one of the most important vessels traversing the oceans today. With its high ambitions and its ability to survey the polar regions, the findings of the ship look to bring more attention to how climate change affects people’s lives.

Haider Sarwar

Haider Sarwar is a writer at The Rising and a Biochemistry student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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