The suggestion, which sent the competition viral last month, received 124,109 votes, four times more than RRS Poppy-Mai – named after a 16-month-old girl with incurable cancer – which came in second place.

The chief executive of the NERC, Duncan Wingham, with whom the final decision lies, now faces the dilemma of choosing between the credibility of his organisation – and its £200m arctic explorer – and the overwhelming burden of public opinion.

If Wingham does bow to the Boaty McBoatface campaign, it will mark something of a departure from previous royal research ships named in honour of arctic explorer Ernest Shackleton and naval officer James Clark Ross.