Belfast has a proud history of shipbuilding, alas, like heavy industry elsewhere in the UK, no longer the major force and employer it once used to be. Harland and Wolff still have operations in Belfast, but not on the scale of the 20th Century when it built ships intended for companies such as the White Star Line. Today it mainly focuses on the offshore oil and wind industries.
Source :Wikipedia *
The most famous ship built in Belfast by Harland Wolff was the RMS Titanic, and in March 2012 Titanic Belfast opened to take advantage of this to boost tourism and as a focus for the regeneration of the city. it’s been extremely successful becoming the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland and it has also been named Europe’s top visitor attraction. It’s actually located beside the Titanic Slipways, the Harland and Wolff Drawing Offices and Hamilton Graving Dock – the very place where Titanic was designed, built and launched in 1912. So we thought we should go and take a look and after our visit to Stormont drove to the city centre and the Titanic Quarter.
The building, clad in 3,000 individual silver anodised aluminium shards, is quite striking. It’s design takes the form of four ships’ prows, with its main “prow” angled down the middle of the Titanic and Olympic slipways towards the River Lagan. It’s 38 metres high, the same height as Titanic‘s hull. Some people have suggested that the “prows” look more like icebergs and it’s been nicknamed it “The Iceberg” by some locals. This short video explains the inspiration behind the building
The entrance fee wasn’t cheap, £17.50 for adults. But we stumped up. It was certainly busy but not so crowded that we couldn’t see the exhibits during the self guided tour.
There are nine galleries, that tell the story of RMS Titanic, from her conception in Belfast in the early 1900s, through her construction and launch, to her famous maiden voyage and tragic end. The exhibition also provides context with information about the history of Belfast and shipping in the city as well as social and political background in Ulster at the turn of the 20th Century.
The galleries are innovative and interactive employing all the latest tricks and technology – including interactive screens, holograms, a chariot ride through a “shipyard”.
The main focus of the exhibition was the design and building of the ship rather than the tragedy of it’s sinking and the aftermath (although these were covered too). This made it particularly interesting for me.
One of the most hazardous jobs in the shipyard – riveting. The heavy metal rivets were heated so they were red hot and then literally thrown up to the riveting team up on the scaffolding, one of whom had to catch it. The hot rivet was then inserted in the rivet hole and it was then hammered by a worker on the other side of the plate.
This archive video is from the John Brown’s shipyard, Glasgow in 1949, but shows how it would have been done during the building of the Titanic.
And people wonder why we need “elf and safety”
There were reconstructions of the different types of cabins on the ship after it had been fitted out.
The wreck of the Titanic was discovered and explored in 1985. After sections covering the tragedy and the subsequent enquiry the exhibition finished with a film of the wreck on the seabed shot from a submersible.
I had expected that Titanic Belfast would have been something of a “tourist trap” but this was definitely not the case. Although inevitably commercial, it was well done and by concentrating on the local connection – the construction of the ship rather – it was relevant to the city and interesting. It took us a good couple of hours to work our way through the galleries and it was time well spent and worth the entrance fee.
We hadn’t quite finished, though. Moored outside in a dry dock was the last remaining White Star vessel – SS Nomadic.
* The original uploader was Stavros1 at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by LittleTony87 using CommonsHelper., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7416860