Scottish sailor set for a white Christmas at the South Pole aboard research ship Sir David Attenborough

A white Christmas is guaranteed for one Scottish man this year, in the planet’s ultimate winter wonderland.

But it will be a long trip for Santa Claus to visit Dumbarton-born sailor Scott Thornton, who will spend the festive period close to the South Pole as part of a research mission to support UK scientists studying climate change.

The 37-year-old launchman is serving aboard the new exploration ship RRS Sir David Attenborough on its maiden voyage to Antarctica.

He believes the excitement of being involved in the ice-breaking vessel’s first polar mission more than makes up for missing Christmas at home.

“To be honest, I think getting to sail on RRS Sir David Attenborough’s maiden voyage to Antarctica is the ultimate Christmas present,” he said.

“It’s like the golden ticket.

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“I love Christmas but I’m used to being away and I know I’ll see my parents and brother when I get back but I’ve been so excited about this trip.

Dumbarton-born sailor Scott Thornton will spend the festive period close to the South Pole as part of a research mission to support UK scientists studying climate change, aboard the new exploration ship RRS Sir David Attenborough on its maiden voyage to Antarctica

“Not everyone can say that they’ve been to Antarctica – it’s a real box-ticker.

“Almost every day on ship is a working day so the chances are that we’ll be working on Christmas Day but we have plans to hold a Fakemas on another day.

“We’ll have a Christmas Dinner at some point and we’ve all organised a secret Santa.”

The £200 million ship is part of a major UK government polar infrastructure investment programme.

The £200m ship RRS Sir David Attenborough was commissioned by the Natural Environment Research Council and is operated by British Antarctic Survey

It was commissioned by the Natural Environment Research Council – part of UK Research and Innovation – and is operated by British Antarctic Survey.

Minister for the polar regions Amanda Milling said: "This magnificent ship is something everyone across the UK can take immense pride in.

"I’d like to wish everyone on board for its maiden voyage a merry Christmas.

“The UK government’s commitment to further investment in our Antarctic scientific infrastructure is putting British scientists at the forefront of polar research, as we lead the world on getting to grips with climate change.

“The UK’s presidency of COP26 in Glasgow last month and our ongoing investment in science demonstrates our determination to drive forward a greener future to save our planet.”

The vessel was named following a poll asking the public for suggestions, in which the top choice was Boaty McBoatface.

But in May 2016 it was announced the ship would be called after world-famous naturalist Sir David Attenborough, and Boaty McBoatface bestowed on one of its remotely controlled submersibles.

Able Seaman Thornton’, whose duties include operating the ship’s cranes and driving and maintaining smaller work boats, got the chance to meet the man himself when he visited the vessel as part of a send-off before the seven-week voyage.

“It was brilliant to meet Sir David Attenborough,” Mr Thornton said.

And the shipmates still hear the broadcaster’s voice every day after he recorded messages for the ship’s Tannoy system as a special favour.

“So everything from ‘No smoking on deck’ to ‘All personnel not sailing with the vessel, please disembark’ is in his dulcet tones,” Mr Thornton added.

“Even when we crossed the equator Sir David announced ‘King Neptune has been sighted on deck’. It is hilarious.”

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