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Titanic Belfast is a museum devoted to the history of the famous ocean liner RMS Titanic.

(For those of you who have lived in a cave since birth, the Titanic was an 882-foot ocean liner which struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic on April 14, 1912, during its maiden voyage, and sank in 12,000 feet of water a few hours later, taking more than 1500 passengers and crew with it. This is one of the worst peacetime nautical disasters in history. If you really don't know anything about it, you should get out more. There's a movie.)

The museum is situated at the head of the slipway where the Titanic was built, and opened on March 21, 2012, only a few months before our visit. The slipway doesn't exist as a slipway anymore, but there is an outline on the ground showing where the ship took shape. There are actually two such outlines, as the Titanic was being built next to and at the same time as a slightly older sister ship called the Olympic - the Titanic is considered to have been an Olympic-class ocean liner. The Olympic class eventually grew to include three ships, with the subsequent construction of the HMHS Britannic. The Britannic's construction was delayed a bit, thanks to some redesign work done after the Titanic's sinking (the Olympic was also hastily recalled for some retrofitting), but it entered service in 1915 as a hospital ship during World War I. The Britannic had some bad luck of its own within a year of going into service, it apparently struck a mine and sank in the Aegean Sea in November of 1916. Only 30 people were lost, but the Britannic ended up being the largest ship sunk during World War I. With the Aegean being just 400 feet deep at the site of the ship's sinking, the Britannic's wreck was located and explored in 1975 by oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. Finding the Titanic was a lot more difficult, but it was located off Newfoundland in 1985 by a team led by Robert Ballard. The Olympic, by the way, suffered some mishaps of its own (such as collisions with other vessels), but managed to survive them, distinguishing itself as a troop carrier in World War I and as a workhorse Transatlantic passenger liner during non-war years, until it was retired in 1935 and eventually scrapped.

We found a bus in the city centre that took us to the Titanic Quarter, where Titanic Belfast is located. It dropped us off on the far side of a block from the museum, which left us with some distance to walk. Hopefully they've come up with a closer bus stop since our visit. The museum's exterior is mostly composed of shiny aluminum shards, covering pointy projections suggesting ships' prows, but many locals feel the overall effect is more suggestive of an iceberg (neither interpretation would be inappropriate in this case). Apparently the museum has a star shape when seen from the air, indicative of the Titanic having been built for the White Star line.

Bob and Nella and Titanic Belfast
Bob and Nella and Titanic Belfast
Titanica Sculpture, Rowan Gillespie
Titanica Sculpture, Rowan Gillespie

We walked around to the other side of the museum, where the slipway area is. It appeared to be a large, flat concrete area with many girder-like lampposts posted along the edges. The lampposts apparently represent the positions of the stanchions of the gigantic gantry used to construct the ship (with a neighboring set of lampposts for the Olympic's slipway). There are also lines on the ground representing the eventual positioning of lifeboats and upper-deck structures.
Philip and Titanic Belfast
Philip and Titanic Belfast
Bob and Slipway Plaque
Bob and Slipway Plaque

Nella and Philip and Slipway Area
Nella and Philip and Slipway Area

We followed the slipway down to where it reaches the water and looked around at the harbour. With the decline of shipbuilding in Belfast, the entire Titanic Quarter area (renamed from Queen's Island, as it was called at the time of the Titanic's construction) had fallen into disrepair. The main shipbuilder, Harland and Wolff (the builders of the Olympic-class ships, among many other civilian and military craft, since 1861) had lost business to other countries, and hasn't actually built any ships since 2003. But the company has now branched out into other areas, including ship repair, bridge building, and construction of offshore structures (such as drilling rigs, wind turbines and tidal turbines). An effort is underway to revitalize the area. Titanic Belfast is part of this effort, as is Titanic Studios, a movie/television studio (home to Game of Thrones) to be found across from the museum.
Titanic Belfast from Slipway Area
Titanic Belfast from Slipway Area
Philip and Nella and Harbour
Philip and Nella and Harbour

Harbourfront
Harbourfront
Belfast Harbour
Belfast Harbour

Anglia Seaways Ship
Anglia Seaways Ship
Titanic Studios
Titanic Studios

Off to the right it was hard two miss two enormous yellow gantry cranes. These cranes, owned by Harland and Wolff, are among the largest in the world. They have been named Goliath (315 feet tall) and Samson (348 feet tall). They were built in 1969 and 1974 for shipbuilding, but are no longer used for this purpose. They are still used for other heavy-lifting tasks, though. They are unofficial symbols of the city and have been classified as buildings of "architectural or historic interest".
Goliath
Goliath (right)
Samson
Samson

We walked back up the slipway and attempted to enter the museum, but it was late in the day by this time, and the museum had already sold the last of its tickets. We left at this point, to return two days later at an earlier hour (and in worse weather, as it turned out). In the interest of keeping the Titanic Belfast stuff together, I'll continue with what happened at that time. Our intervening adventures will be described in other pages.

Titanic Belfast has a large number of displays of different types. There are relatively simple posterboard displays, elaborate models and multimedia displays. There is even a ride through darkened areas that recreate different types of activities involved in the ship's construction. There are artifacts, photographs, personal accounts of survivors (and brief biographies of some non-survivors) and reconstructions. We looked through all of it.

Bob and Cunard Line Poster
Bob and Cunard Line Poster

Model of Slipway
Model of Slipway
Layout for Olympic and Titanic
Layout for Olympic and Titanic

Recreation of Furnace
Recreation of Furnace
Photo of Ship Under Construction
Photo of Ship Under Construction

Belfast Launch Photo
Belfast Launch Photo
Titanic in Slipway
Titanic in Slipway

Titanic Propellers
Titanic Propellers
Reconstruction of Drawing Room
Reconstruction of Drawing Room

Second Class Cabin
Second Class Cabin
Nella and Replica Lifeboat
Nella and Replica Lifeboat

At one point there is a raised view of the twin slipways and of the harbour beyond. During most of our visit, it was raining both cats and dogs outside, so we didn't do any further exterior exploration.
Slipway Area in Rain
Slipway Area in Rain

Across from the museum's entrance we could see a boat labelled the S.S. Nomadic in a drydock area. This was one of the Titanics tender vessels. The route followed by the Titanic during its maiden voyage began at Southampton in England on April 10, 1912. From Southampton the ship travelled to Cherbourg in France, where it arrived four hours later, dropping off some passengers and collecting others. Next the ship travelled to Cork Harbour in southern Ireland, where it arrived the next morning and another passenger exchange took place. From Ireland the ship headed for New York City, with the plan being to arrive there on April 17 (plans decisively changed by an iceberg on the 14th). This was a common itinerary for cruise ships, and it was in fact successfully completed a year earlier by the Olympic on its less eventful maiden voyage. With the Olympic-class ships being so large, not all ports had docking facilities that could handle them. This was the case in both Cherbourg and Cork harbour. In such ports smaller tender vessels were used to ferry passengers between shore and the large steamships, which were anchored. The S.S. Nomadic was one of two tenders used during the Titanics stop in Cherbourg, at which time the tenders accomplished their task in just 90 minutes. Today, the Nomadic is the only remaining White Star vessel still in existence. The White Star line merged with its chief rival, the Cunard line, in 1934, with the White Star name being dropped entirely in 1950.
S.S. Nomadic
S.S. Nomadic

With the rain letting up, we exited the museum, posed for a few pictures, and headed back to the bus stop.
Bob Near Museum Entrance
Bob Near Museum Entrance

We rested a bit at the hotel and then walked southward in search of dinner, which we found at a Thai place on Dublin Road.
Thai Village Restaurant
Thai Village Restaurant

We returned to the hotel and made an early night of it. It had been a full day, and we had an early appointment the next morning we were going to meet up with a tour bus that would take us up to Northern Ireland's Antrim coast.