This past weekend, B and I went up to Belfast for an overnight stay. There was a big tattoo convention on up there at the Titanic Museum. The drive up from Dublin is only about an hour and a half, and is a simple easy straight shot up on the M1. We left early Saturday morning and arrived to Belfast about Noon. This enabled us to go through the Titanic Museum and then on to the convention.
First the museum. It’s on the waterfront of the harbor at Belfast (view above) where many ships were built about 100 years ago. Among others for the White Star lines were the Olympic, the Titanic and many others. To commemorate the building and launch of the Titanic, and its subsequent sinking -there is now a museum built in a modern architecture style – which is designed to look like the prow of a ship. You can see it just behind us, below.
The museum itself is 5 stories and it costs 17.50 for the basic entry to the museum and the ship nearby. What I expected was not quite what it was though. The place was packed full of people (it was a weekend) and you went up to the main museum based on the time on your ticket. We started out by visiting the large ship nearby – the SS Nomadic. This was the ship that ferried passengers for the Titanic from the port of Cherbourg, France to the Titanic. The vessel itself is dry docked, and has been restored on the inside. There are a few tables, some wooden benches, and a partially interactive museum system. There are some displays of old luggage and some history of a few of the passengers that crossed on the Nomadic to the Titanic. The ship itself is a “supplement” to the larger titanic museum, so while it did lack in information and history (they could have told more about the service of the ship itself) it was ok. The decks were easy to wander and it was good for the 45 minutes we were there.
The main steam pipe for the Nomadic
Iceburg Lettuce Ahead!
After touring the SS Nomadic we headed inside the main building and were herded into a line with everyone that was on the 1:15 walk through. They promptly had us stand in front of a green screen to take a picture (to be super imposed on a deck of the Titanic, in front of the museum or any of 5 other poses you could later buy for 7.50 each). Then we were sent up an escalator. What we were expecting was a museum of history and artifacts and lots of details on the people who were aboard the Titanic. It’s not really what we got. There were lots people – and as you shuffled through – it was walls of reading and posters and old blown up pictures that were about Belfast, the manufacture of the Titanic (and other ships) and then about the white star line. You walked though area after area like this – much of which in such crowded conditions was impractical to try and read. (It was also quite warm). Eventually, you get to a point they send you up an escalator to the third floor and you stand for about 20 minutes to take a “ride” in a bucket around a room that comprises most of the 2nd and third floor). The ride moves you about from video screen to video screen while you listen to a radio broadcast telling you stories from those that worked building ships. They talk about the heat, they talk about the riveting process, and so on.
Once done with that, you’re marched into another room with more reading / large photo displays, a replica of two rooms of the titanic, a display of carpet samples, and some china samples from the manufacturing process. Eventually, you end up in an area with a repeating video of an ocean (and a fake railing which everyone poses in front of) and the lone item from the time – a letter sent before the Titanic disembarked from Ireland. Finally, you’re sent into a theater room with a repeating video of the underwater oceanographic view of the wreck itself. It is pretty much the same video you see in the movie Titanic with DiCaprio. Here, you take a breather – and then are sent through a bunch of oceanographic displays of old diving gear and modern technology (scuba type subs). There’s also an interactive display on multiple screens where you can “pilot” the subs over the computerized video of wreckage and try to pick out what’s there.
The last rooms are dedicated to the telegraph dispatches from the titanic, the lifeboats, and the survivors. There’s also an interactive computer system set up where you can look up individuals on the ship – and get some other very basic details. Again though -with the crowded nature of the museum – there were bottle necks and folks just didn’t try to read what was there -because it was almost impractical.
After leaving the museum, we headed downstairs for some refreshments at the cafe. I ended up getting a sandwich and white star lines piece of carrot cake:
The cake was fine, but it was served on a replica Titanic plate (let’s all ooh and ahh):
After that, we went up to the 5th floor of the building and into the Tattoo convention. This was very cool (though I didn’t take any pictures – how did I not take pictures?!?). Before heading to our hotel – the Tara lodge. The Lodge is straight downtown Belfast – and within walking distance to just about everything including the bars, the Queen’s College, and the Botanical Gardens. More on the botanic gardens tomorrow.