IT has been years in the making, cost £75m and will transport top scientists around the world from right here in Southampton.
And when dignitaries gather at the city docks today, the sparkling new research ship RRS Discovery will receive a royal seal of approval.
Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal will officially name the state-of-the-art vessel at the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) in Southampton with the traditional breaking of a bottle of Champagne on the ship’s giant hull.
Joining her on the day will be Universities and Science minister David Willetts as well as a host of leading scientists from the internationally renowned learning facility.
Once fully operational, RRS Discovery will be a world-leading oceanographic research vessel and represents a £75m investment in frontier science by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.
Commissioned by the Natural Environment Research Council it will be operated by the NOC for the nation’s marine science community and will be capable of visiting some of the most remote and least hospitable parts of our planet, from tropical seas to polar water. She will join the city’s other RRS James Cook, which was also named by the Princess Royal in February 2007.
At almost 100m in length, and with a displacement of 6,075 tonnes, Discovery will carry a marine crew of 24 and has accommodation for 28 scientists and technicians.
The ship is fitted with a huge suite of laboratories, handling systems and sensors that will enable her to carry out research spanning a wide range of ocean issues that impact on the world.
Bosses hope it will play a key role in the scientific mission to understand the role of the oceans in the Earth system and to carry out research in areas including climate change, the impact of human activity on delicate ecosystems, mapping earthquakes and underwater landslides and investigating features such as hydrothermal vents.
Scientists will be able to sample and measure the properties of the atmosphere above the ocean surface, the water column itself and the seabed of the deep ocean.
The vessel will also be used to launch hi-tech submersible equipment, such as the Isis remotely operated vehicle, or NOC’s fleet of Autosub autonomous underwater vehicles.
She is the latest in an illustrious line of vessels bearing the name that date back to 1602 when the East India Company commissioned the first recorded Discovery to explore the waters now known as the Hudson Strait in the long search for the North-West Passage.
In the 20th Century a new Discovery was specially commissioned for the British National Antarctic Expedition of 1901-04, that included Antarctic heroes Captain Scott and Ernest Shackleton.
The new ship’s immediate predecessor ended a 50-year career in 2012, and was the platform for some of the most important marine science carried out during that period.
The naming ceremony was taking place at 11am today.