The Titanic Experience in Belfast

“Certainly there was no sailor who ever sailed salt water but who smiled – and still smiles – at the idea of the unsinkable ship” –  Charles Lightoller (Surviving Officer) in ‘Titanic and Other Ships’

Two weeks after returning from Northern Ireland I went there again, this time to take my grandson who has a great interest in the story of the Titanic.

The Titanic Museum and Experience has been built on the site of the previous Harland and Wolff workshops  right in front of the slipways that were built for the construction of the Titanic and the sister ship Olympic.  This area which has become the Titanic Quarter was previously called Queen’s Island but twenty years ago it was a no hope area of rotting buildings, dereliction and silted up docks and the transformation is truly remarkable.

Inside the building was equally as impressive as the exterior and after collecting our pre booked tickets (10% saving) we made our way through to the exhibition which started with a history of nineteenth century boom town Belfast before taking us to the top floor for a shipyard ride with various displays of the construction process and then descending through various galleries that dealt with the launch, the fitting out, the maiden voyage, the passengers and the sinking.

The exhibition has a good mix of exhibits, interactive displays, full size reconstructions and plenty of information and facts.  My favourite was the story of the riveters who worked in a five man team and were expected to fix six hundred white hot metal rivets in a day.  One man heated it in a furnace before throwing it to a second man called the catcher who collected it in a bucket before passing it to the three man finishing team who hammered it into place.  All of those jobs sound dangerous to me but I imagine the catchers to be the most so.

By the time that we left the final gallery about the search for the ship we were all happy to declare this to be among the best experience museums that we had ever visited and what good value at only £12.50 and I would certainly be happy to recommend anyone to visit this place.

There are many theories about the reason for the sinking.  The Captain has been blamed for being reckless, the White Star Board for trying to set a speed record despite the danger but currently the most popular is the rivets.  Apparently those used at the bow and the stern were made of iron rather than steel and contained high levels of impurities.  They only had a 5 mm tolerance and as a consequence of the collision they shattered and popped their heads and the steel plates of the hull undid like a giant zipper.

From the very day that she was designed she was almost doomed…this (the use of iron rivets) was the Achilles heel of the Titanic.” – Paul Louden-Brown, White Star Line Archivist.

So, everyone knows that the Titanic sank but as we came to the end of the visit I began to think about what if it hadn’t?  To begin with the three millionaire U.S. businessmen who died that night, John Jacob Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim and Isidor Strauss might have gone on to be even more successful and who knows what they might have achieved.  Thomas Andrews, the designer of the ship might have built something even bigger and better and Captain Edward Smith could have carried on crashing into other ships.

For sure I wouldn’t have met the American visitor who was looking at a list of the victims and comparing pictures with a faded photograph that she was holding.  She told me that it was her great uncle who was one who drowned that night.

Just maybe someone on board emigrating to the New World might have gone on to be the U.S. President and this isn’t as unlikely as it sounds because fifteen of forty-six  Presidents (30%) claim ancestral heritage from Ulster (Andrew Jackson, James Knox Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S Grant, Chester Alan Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and the current President Joe Biden).

We certainly wouldn’t have had that awful film ‘Titanic’ with Leonardo DiCaprio and we would never have had to endure Celine Dion singing ‘My heart will go on’.  As a point of interest there have been twenty-two films that are directly or indirectly based on the story of the Titanic and if you want my opinion (you are going to get it anyway)  the best of all was ‘A Night to Remember’ made in 1958 and starring Kenneth More playing Second Officer Charles Lightholler (see quote above).

Before leaving the exhibition we had a good value Titanic themed lunch in the ground floor restaurant and then after visiting the slipway overshadowed by Samson and Goliath in the Harland and Wolff shipyard which are claimed to be the two largest free standing cranes in the World and have become a canary yellow symbol of the city.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

 

 

27 responses to “The Titanic Experience in Belfast

  1. The Titanic Experience makes it sound like a catch-penny fairground type exhibition. You’ve definitely put me right. It’s on the list now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely agree with you Andrew – we thought this was seriously one of the very best museums and/or exhibitions we’ve ever visited.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It sounds a really great museum and well worth the time and effort of going to see it. You might enjoy “Titanic and the Californian” which examines how the completely innocent captain of another ship was blamed for the death toll. It also investigates reasons for hitting the iceberg in the first place and how the people at the top wriggled away from responsibility. The captain of the Californian, by the way, was completely exonerated when Ballard found the Titanic wreck on the sea floor. It was a long way from the position that the Titanic had radioed at the time of the sinking.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Well, you certainly enjoyed that one

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  5. I love this exhibition. It’s one of the best 🤗

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  6. Ah the Titanic, and now we have the Wonders of the Seas!! a floating city!

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  7. one of the most moving installations i’ve ever visited

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  8. A trip with Grandpa never to be forgotten

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Actually I think the film is great so long as you turn it off when it gets to the dialogue “Where’s Sven?” I like the evocation of embarkation.

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  10. I would live to visit this museum. A great thing to do with your grandson.

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  11. Impressive building . . .

    . . . and thank you for your opinion about the film. We watched it as part of a pact with relatives where we would watch something they recommended and they’d watch something we recommended (we had no interest in watching it as we correctly surmised it was caca).

    While they reneged, we held up our part of the pact and suffered through the movie. We are to this day scarred.

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  12. Thank you for sharing. I’ve always been fascinated by the individual stories of the Titanic and have read much about the cursed ship and her passengers. I would LOVE to visit this museum! I’ve not yet been to Northern Ireland, but it is on my list of places to visit, largely because of the Titanic exhibit. (BTW, I am Canadian, as is Celine Dion, so you’d think I’d feel some sort of kinship with her, and pride in her contribution to the film/music in general. I do not. “My Heart Will Go On” is one of my most disliked songs, and that is largely true throughout Canada.)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great post! I love the photo of you on the deck, and wonder what it would look like in black and white? Anything that gets this much of a recommendation from you is certainly going to be a worthwhile stop. You don’t give recommendations carelessly. The building architecture is remarkable. I also enjoyed your thoughts on what could have happened if all the people who died in the accident had instead made it to shore safely?

    Liked by 1 person

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