Still in lockdown, here is another one of my past trips, this one is all about the Titanic Museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
This museum is special, super informative and the visit was rather emotional for me, having watched the Titanic Movie when I was young, and subsequently reading up on every fact I could about this doomed ship. Besides the fact that the ship met such a tragic fate, at the time of its construction, it was the largest passenger ship afloat.
Construction of the Titanic begin in 31st March 1909 in the Belfast shipyard, along side The Olympic (who’s construction started 3 months before the Titanic). Between the two ships constructed side by side, 15,000 workers were employed.
The Titanic itself was constructed over 3 years, and due to the dangerous building conditions 8 men lost their lives during construction. The museum does a brilliant job showing you what the construction conditions were like: incredibly loud, enormous heights above the ground just balancing on scaffolding, physical and heavy work that continued through all weather conditions.
The museum also goes into a lot of detail about the economic conditions of the time, and how the ship building industry of Belfast was an important employer. It also went into detail how little the workers were paid, the conditions they live and worked in, and how little time they spent away from the shipyard during the week, how they continued working despite any sickness or exhaustion they felt.
When going through the museum, I learn all about the incredible amount of detail that went into the ship, all the way from the construction to deciding what type of wood or carpet should be used. For the workers of the Titanic, it was a real moment of pride to see the ship set sail on its maiden voyage. With an estimated construction cost of $7.5 million, all of the hard work and all of the detail that went into the ship, and the enormous loss of life, it felt like an incredible shame that it all ended so badly.
- The Titanic left for her maiden voyage to pick up passengers from the following ports:
- 10th of April 1912 – From Belfast to Southampton in England
- 10th of April 1912 PM – From Southampton to Cherbourg in the North of France
- 11th of April 1912 AM – Cherbourg to Queenstown (Cobh) in the South of Ireland
- Around 1:30PM on the 11th of April 1912, the Titanic left Queenstown for New York City, USA
- When the Titanic left her final stop before crossing the Atlantic, she was carrying 2,223 passengers and employees, with about 1,300 passengers
- The two wireless radio operators received many iceberg warnings throughout the voyage, passing along the messages to the bridge (from which the ship is commanded)
- It was on the evening of the 14th of April 1912 where the Titanic ran into trouble:
- The build up:
- The Titanic approached an area where it was known that there were icebergs
- Captain Smith maintained the 22 knots of speed, only veering off to the South
- During that night, the Titanic receive two further warnings: One from the Mesaba who sent word about an ice field (the message wasn’t received by the bridge), and the Californian who sent word that they had become surrounded by ice and had stopped their course (this message was also not received by the bridge)
- The collision:
- There were two lookouts in the Titanic’s crow’s nest who had a difficult job spotting any trouble on the water since the sea was unusually calm
- Adding to the ill fate, their binoculars were missing from the crow’s nest
- Around 11:40PM however the lookouts spotted an iceberg about 740km from the coast of Newfoundland, Canada
- They alerted the bridge, to which First Officer Murdoch turned the ship port side (left) with the engines reversed, but it was too late
- The starboard side (left) of the ship scraped along the iceberg, causing about 5 of the reputed watertight compartments to rupture at the bow (front of the ship), filling with water – the rupture likely caused by the brittle steel in the frigid conditions
- It was realised that the front of the ship filling with water would cause the ship to sink forward and water would spill from one compartment to the other
- The distress after collision:
- Distress signals were sent about 40 minutes later, the first one being received by the Carpathia at 12:20AM on the 15th of April
- The Carpathia was unfortunately too far away (about 107 km away) and even though she immediately went to the rescue she was more than 3 hours away
- The Olympic (The Titanic’s sister ship during construction) responded but was also too far away to help
- The Californian who originally tried to send word that they had become surrounded by ice and had stopped their course had switched off their wireless for the night and didn’t receive any messages
- A vessel spotted nearby was also unreachable
- Lifeboats off the ship:
- By 12:40AM on the 15th of April, Captain Smith commanded women and children into the lifeboats
- There was a total of 20 lifeboats on the ship, which could only carry 1,178 passengers where there were 2,223 on the ship
- They loaded up the lifeboats well under capacity because the crew were concerned that the cranes (davits) lowering the lifeboats wouldn’t be able to take the weight of a lifeboat with full capacity (The Titanic had a scheduled test of lowering the lifeboats but had cancelled this and weren’t aware this test was done already in Belfast, ensuring safety was signed off)
- Of the 2,223 passengers only 706 were rescued in lifeboats
- Her sinking:
- What I thought was just an emotional scene in the movie was actually based off fact: The musicians who played for the First Class passengers played on the deck of the ship as she sank, only stopping just before sinking
- It was at 1:00AM that the water had reached the base of the ship by the Grand Staircase
- By 2:00AM the stern began to rise from the sea, pulled own by the sunken bow (front)
- By 2:18AM the Titanic’s lights went out and the ship broke in two and the bow sunk underwater
- Two minutes later the stern of the ship sank
- The rescue:
- Of the 2,223 there were 1,517 lives lost
- Those were were in lifeboats were rescued by the Carpathia who arrived in New York City on the 18th of April 1912
I’ve been to the museum on two occasions, but these are the pictures that stuck with me:
- The iconic entrance way to the museum
- The shipyard where the Titanic was constructed and launched from
- The difference between the First Class Cabins and the Third Class cabins (complete luxury compared with absolute necessity for travel)
Visit cobh – republic of ireland
About 2 years ago, I visited Cobh and wrote this article if you want more information. https://shellsadventures.com/2018/10/14/cobh-cork/
In Cobh you can learn more about the Titanic at the Titanic memorial and Titanic Experience museum. The Titanic Bar and Grill is worthwhile to pop into for a lunch or dinner.