We arrived in Belfast yesterday afternoon, and this morning, bright and early headed to the area of Belfast now known as the Titanic Quarter. This entire section of the city was once the home of the famous Harland and Wolff shipyard, the location and firm that built the most famous ship of all time.
The centerpiece of this part of the city of course is the Titanic Experience, a multi floor, multi media, multi immersion museum with four distinct prow shaped wings. The wings that look like the bows of the ships built in those docks, from the air form a white star, in homage of course to White Star Lines, the Titanic’s operational owner ( although we learn in one of the galleries that much of the financing came from JP Morgan).
It’s a truly interactive experience and we spent well over 3 hours in the galleries, immersing ourselves in the stories, not only of the tragedy, but also the stories of the dockyard workers and the city of Belfast itself. In the early 1900’s the city was a boom town because of the combined industries of shipbuilding and linen manufacturing, a product of fine Irish flax. We also learn that Belfast had strong businesses in tobacco, what we now know to be HVAC systems, and “aerated waters” of all things. Belfast soda was a popular soft drink.
The galleries contain everything from a Disney like ride through the dockyard and gantries, to a “walk” over a simulation of the wreck two and a half miles down on the ocean floor, to mock ups of first and third class cabins. There are reproductions of the china, a menu from lunch on that Sunday afternoon, and parts of transcripts from the US Senate and British Board of Trade inquiries, that began the day after the Carpathia returned the survivors to New York.
Visitors learn of Mary Mangan, an Irish immigrant engaged to be married, who had gone home to Ireland to show off her engagement ring, and boarded the ship in (then) Queenstown with wedding presents in her luggage. Her body was recovered a few weeks after the tragedy by a salvage team, and identified by her name on a locket. Her diamond ring, listed on her original identification, was never returned to her family. Her village of Addergoole, in County Mayo, Ireland, suffered the loss of 14 citizens.
Finally in the last gallery, the transcripts of the Marconi wireless calls for help. SOS was a new call, replacing the prior call sign of CDQ and probably not well known. At 1:30 am, only “C” and the “D” of CDQ is transmitted….
The aerial shot above shows the two giant cranes, installed at Harland and Wolf in the 1960’s still used today, although workers now number 200 versus the 30,000 that were employed during the early 1900’s. The cranes are named “Samson” and “Goliath”. The double green door building on the left center of photos is Titanic Studios, an old paint shop for the shipyard. It is where the show “Game of Thrones” is filmed