The White Star Line’s Titanic was the largest ship in the world at that time. She had a greater tonnage than the first ship of this class the 45,324-ton Olympic, as design changes during construction led to her upper passenger decks being extended. Titanic could carry 905 1st, 564 2nd and 1,134 3rd class passengers. The Olympic class ships were powered by reciprocating piston engines driving two 3 bladed outer propellers - 23 feet in diameter, and a low-pressured turbine driving the central 4 bladed propeller - 16 foot in diameter.
Titanic had nine decks of which the lower were divided into 16 watertight compartments. Her builders calculated she could stay afloat with any two compartments flooded, possibly three. This would allow Titanic to withstand a collision at the joint of any two compartments. As no large ship had ever received damage greater than this, Olympic class ships were regarded as ‘virtually unsinkable’.
On April 10th 1912, Titanic set out on her maiden voyage from Southampton - Cherbourg / France, Queenstown / Ireland and New York. She arrived at Queenstown on the 11th around lunchtime and set off bound for New York that afternoon. On April 14th at 11.40 pm, Titanic was approximately 1,300 miles from New York when she hit an iceberg. An inspection of the damage by her designer ‘Thomas Andrews’ found five or six forward compartments taking on water. As Andrews calculated Titanic could sink within a few hours, he recommended passengers should abandon ship. Women and children were ordered to leave first as there were insufficient lifeboats for all the passengers and crew.
Most of the lifeboats that left Titanic were not full, as many passengers believed the largest ship in the world would stay afloat. By 2.05 am, the last lifeboat had made the 60 foot decent from the boat deck to the waterline. At 2.17 am, Titanic’s stern rose in the air until a thundering crash was heard. After breaking up, her lights went out as she disappeared beneath the calm icy seas. Most of the passengers that put on lifejackets and jumped from the sinking ship died of exposure before they could be rescued.
The first ship to reach the scene was Cunard’s Carpathia at 4.10 am. Carpathia only picked up survivors, this leaving the accident site littered with bodies. Of approximately 2,277 people on board, only 705 survived. Other steamers avoided the area to prevent upsetting their passengers with the tragic sight.
The White Star Line chartered the cable laying ship Mackay - Bennet to pick up the dead. Makay - Bennet set out from Halifax Wednesday April 17th. Mainly first class passengers bodies were taken back; all other souls were buried at sea.
Update: For over 90 years, the slip where the Titanic was built had remained virtually unaltered. In 2006, plans were revealed H&W were to sell off the slip and surrounding ground for development. About that time, ship historians in Belfast managed to buy back a ship built in 1911 at H&W. This ship was to be moored next to the Odyssey Arena, a few hundred yards up river from the Titanic slip, to serve as a museum.
This was no ordinary ship, it was the SS Nomadic, built to serve as a tender carrying passenger from Cherbourg out to the Titanic and her sister ships. She is often referred to as Titanic’s little sister. This ship actually carried passengers to the Titanic on the fateful voyage. She is the only remaining historic link to Titanic still afloat, and, the last surviving White Star Line vessel in the world.
The Nomadic was probably saved from the scrap yards after being bought to serve as a restaurant and function venue while moored in Paris from 1977 till 2002.
After a successful bid at auction by the Department for Social Development, 15th July 2006, Nomadic arrived back home in Belfast for the first time since being built 1910 - 1911, back in her birthplace after an absence of 95 years, 1 month and 19 days.
She is now open as a museum with her uper decks restored over the following years.
Harland and Wolff have sold off the area or their yard known as the Titanic Quarter. This area has been developed into impressive accommodation apartments and business premises. There are two landscaped areas for leisure in the shape of two large ships. These are situated exactly where the Olympic and Titanic were built.
With the Nomadic serving as a museum and the Olympic and Titanic slips becoming leisure areas, tourism to Belfast looks to have a bright future. Website