Belfast Ships: The Titanic

The 'unsinkable' White Star liner

The most famous White Star liner, the Titanic was launched on May 31, 1911. It was 1000 gross tons heavier than its predecessor the Olympic.

Shipbuilder magazine, not as legend depicts Harland and Wolff, claimed it was ‘virtually unsinkable’.

It departed for Southampton on April 2, 1912, calling at Cherbourg and Queenstown (Cobh) before steaming across the Atlantic. At 11.40pm on April 14 it struck an iceberg, tearing a 90m gash in its hull and damaging five compartments. It sank at 2.20am on April 15, 1912.

The sinking of the Titanic was the most appalling shipping disaster in the history of the world. Only 711 of the 2201 passengers were saved.

An inquiry discovered that the Titanic had only 20 lifeboats and that there had been no proper boat drill. Some boats had not been filled to capacity and the lives of the first class passengers had been put before those in third class.

On September 1, 1985, a collaboration between American and French scientists, led by Robert Ballard, finally discovered the wreck of the Titanic. The following year, Ballard took photographs of the wreck using the submersible Alvin and a remotely operated underwater robot called Jason Junior or JJ.

After a failed attempt in 1996, the hull section, known as ‘the Big Piece’, was recovered from the water and brought to New York for preservation.

Even 90 years after the disaster, the sinking of the Titanic continues to attract great attention.

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