Everyone is familiar with the story of the Titanic, the British liner that sank in the early morning of 15 April 1912 after colliding with an iceberg on her maiden voyage. The great liner was travelling from Southampton to New York and carried some of the richest people in the world as well as immigrants hoping for a new life. More than 1500 people died in the tragedy and the disaster has been immortalised in books and films. The Titanic was built in Belfast and in recent years Titanic Belfast, the world’s largest Titanic visitor experience has opened its doors. On a recent visit to Belfast we made the trip to see what it was all about. Titanic Belfast is situated in the Titanic Quarter of the city, right beside the site of the Titanic’s construction. The building itself is made up of four ship shaped wings and is easy to spot from a distance.
Looking across the water you can see the iconic cranes on the Harland and Wolff ship building site, Samson and Goliath, that dominate the city skyline and have worked hard building ships for many years.
Entering the doors you enter an impressive atrium where you can get your tickets and spend a while in the gift shop. When you get a ticket you are given a time slot for entering the exhibition itself, these are at twenty minute intervals. It is worth booking on-line so that you know the time of entry in advance. This means that visitor flow throughoutthe exhibit is controlled and you do get a chance to see everything.
Journeying though the nine galleries that make up the exhibit allows you to uncover the full story of the Titanic, from her building to her launch and her fateful journey, as well as what happened afterwards. It is an interactive and interesting experience.
In the first gallery we learn all about Belfast 100 years ago, the time when the Titanic was built. Belfast was a boom town, not only was Harland and Wolff the biggest shipyard in the world but the city was a global leader in engineering. It was also home to a thriving linen industry. It gives a great insight into the way people lived at the time as well as why there was a need for a large liner like the Titanic.
Passing beyond the gates you are shown inside Harland and Wolff. We pass the drawing tables were the design for the ship was done, tables and tables of men hard at work. Drawing out the design on large scrolls that would have been catalogued and stored.
We then enter the shipyard itself, going up a lift that is beside a frame which shows you how high the people working on building the ship had to ascend every day. At the top is a ride which takes you though the working shipyard, and you get to experience the sounds that workers would work with every day. It is effective with videos showing you each stage of the building process.
Finally we leave the shipyard and the Titanic is ready to be launched. The building looks down onto the actual slipway that the Titanic would have gone down into the sea when it was finished.
It is amazing to watch the launch happening on the video and then the blinds open so you can see what the dockside looks like now. Once the ship was launched work began on fitting out the ship inside. The next gallery shows us the work that went into creating the luxurious and elegant ship. There are recreations of the cabins, from the opulent first class cabin to the smaller second class cabin and the tiny third class.
We are shown the china and linens used and get a feel for the work that must have gone into creating the woodwork throughout the ship. An interactive video takes you though each level of the Titanic from the engines to the fantastic stairway that was the centrepiece of the ship. It really brings the whole ship to life.
In Gallery Five we learn about the passengers and crew on the ship as it sets out on the maiden voyage. We also find out about life on board the liner as it sails for America. We then reach the fateful event in Gallery six where the ship hits the iceberg. This gallery is haunting with images of the ship going down.
In the background we hear the morse code messages being exchanged between the ships with the timing of the messages between the different ships. The morse code scrolls up the wall until finally the Titanic goes down and the messages end.
Leaving this gallery we learn all about the aftermath of the tragedy. We find out how the word spread over the world, how the the world reacted and what happened to the survivors Finally we learn all about the Titanic today and how the wreck was found and the technology used to do so. There is a video showing the wreck, now in two halves and a video floor where you can look down on the wreck and interactive screens where you get to view some of the debris on the ocean floor.
The Titanic Belfast is a really well put together exhibit that really puts together the history of the ship and the people on it in an amazing interactive experience. If you are in Belfast it is well worth a visit, as is the Crumlin Road Gaol.