“SOS, call from the Titanic. We have struck the ice and require immediate assistance.” Famous last words.
Three hours after the Telegram crossed the seas from the RMS Titanic in the early hours of April 15, 1912, the ill-fated liner sank, killing 2,200 passengers and crew. “Nice trip, nice ship” was another message from an unidentified passenger on board. Titanic Belfast, the largest museum dedicated to the world’s most luxurious ocean liner, offers visitors a deep dive into this tragedy.
The ill-fated RMS Titanic‘s gym was only open to first-class passengers; there was a physical educator, a Turkish sauna, electric camels, rowers and bicycles. As men and women, even children were not allowed to mix, the schedules were strict. When the Titanic sank, passengers rode stationary bikes and used other gym equipment to warm up.
These are just some of the lesser-known nuggets of information available to museum visitors, fittingly erected on the renovated site of the Harland and Wolff shipyard, where the ill-fated ship was built.
At 126 feet, the building stands as tall as the Titanic’s hull against the Belfast skyline. Clad in glass and aluminum plates, the metallic gray of the astonishing star-shaped structure matches the ominous and threatening sky. At the entrance, arms outstretched, sits Titanica, a female figure inspired
by the mastheads of the ships of yesteryear. And maybe the movie too.
On three floors of the building, which opened to the public on April 12, 2012, the centenary of the ship’s maiden voyage, are nine self-guided galleries that detail the creation of the Titanic, its voyage and finally, the sinking, as well as The Belfast’s history as a shipbuilding powerhouse. Smells, sights and sounds are recreated through photographs, interactive screens, replica cabins, real objects donated by survivors and their families, and the voices of survivors.
Framed souvenirs detail a lunch menu that mentions submarine herring and potted shrimp.
It includes notes on the ship’s interior: the third-class dining room had separate sections for single women, families, and single men. As there was no laundry on board, the ship carried 18,000 long sheets and 45,000 napkins.
In the section detailing the history of Belfast, there is a flax mill resembling a doll’s house, where cut-out windows open to show the workers inside.
A ticket stub for the launch of the Titanic on May 31, 1911 indicates people’s fascination with the ship and the thousands of people who came to watch the event.
A short walk through the Disney World shipyard through a model Titanic’s rudder offers a glimpse of the ship’s inner workings amidst the displays.
The life-size replicas of the cabins are the most striking. looking through the glass fronts into the interiors, you can see newspapers carelessly tossed on the beds as if readers have just left for a shower or breakfast.
A video exhibit that details the interiors, floor by floor, shows that they were even more luxurious than James Cameron’s sets in the film. In the final leg of the tour, the atmosphere turns dark as the voices of survivors, calls and notes from the ship’s final hours fill you with thoughts of lost history.
The museum ends with the discovery of the wreckage of the Titanic at the preview theatre. An afternoon here is a reminder that what many know about Titanic is just the tip of the iceberg.