Fascination with Titanic continues

By Julian Shea in London | China Daily | Updated: 2023-08-08 08:23
Share - WeChat

Proud of connection

Titanic Belfast shows what the ship looked like inside. Provided to China Daily

Belfast remains hugely proud of its connection to the Titanic, with the city's most high-profile waterfront residential and business regeneration area known as TitanicQuarter. Since 2012 it has been home to the Titanic Belfast visitor experience, one of Northern Ireland's most visited attractions.

It draws visitors from around the world, with the availability of audio guides in Chinese reflecting its far-reaching appeal.

Claire Bacon is the communications manager at Titanic Belfast. She told China Daily the Titanic was a huge presence in Belfast's past and a major part of its present.

"Titanic is one of the most recognizable names in the world, but a lot of people didn't realize it was built here, so we've brought the story back home and tell it in a way and in a place nowhere else could," she said. "You can stand on the exact spot where it was built."

In a city with such a blighted reputation because of violence and division caused by the Troubles in Northern Ireland (1968-98), Titanic Belfast has proved to be a hugely popular and unifying innovation.

"Since 2012, we've had 7 million visitors, and, in the first 10 years, we contributed 430 million pounds ($550 million) of spend back into the local economy, so it's a huge part of city life," Bacon said.

The self-guided tour, available in a variety of languages, allows visitors to learn about the city's maritime heritage and the construction and launch of the ship from the slipway outside the exhibit's door as well as the voyage and sinking.

Visitors can enjoy a new $5.7-million gallery called Pursuit of Dreams, which looks at the dreams of the builders, the passengers and the dream of Robert Ballard, who found the wreck in 1985.

Artifacts on display include the violin of bandmaster Wallace Hartley, a life jacket and one of the last six surviving deck chairs. Visitors also have a chance to go on the last surviving White Star Line boat, SS Nomadic, the small tender used to ferry first-class passengers to and from the ship, which Bacon said is the closest anyone can get to going on the Titanic.

"The city has always been very proud of its shipbuilding heritage, and when it was being built here, Titanic was a huge deal, so we celebrate that heritage and the innovation that it took to build the ship," she said.

Having written three books and been involved in numerous documentaries about the Titanic, Tim Maltin is one of the world's leading authorities on the ship. He has been captivated by it since seeing the film A Night to Remember as a child and because his uncle was taught at school by a Titanic survivor.

He told China Daily its enduring international appeal was because of the universality of the experience.

"The Titanic was a microcosm for humanity — people from all over the world, rich and poor, together in that one place, a creation that was the best that humanity could come up with, suddenly struck down by the awesome power of nature," he said.

"All nationalities were on board — there were people from Africa, from Turkiye, China, Japan, obviously Europe and North America, and all of those people, whether they survived or died, left a story in the towns and communities they came from. When I do talks about it, wherever I go in the world, more often than not there will be someone there in the audience with a personal connection to the ship."

The supposedly unsinkable Titanic sank two years before the outbreak of World War I, as what were regarded as years of certainty and unstoppable progress of human endeavor came to a juddering halt.

"The sinking was similar to the themes of the tragedies of ancient Greece, which looked at the smallness of humanity in the vastness of the universe," Maltin said.

"We no longer have those stories in our lives, but we do have a story about a supposedly unsinkable ship, containing a cross-section of society, confidently setting out over the horizon and being struck down by the power of nature. Even in the 21st century, this allows us to question our place in the universe."

As if to underline the power of nature over the arrogance of humankind, freak atmospheric conditions compounded the tragedy by obscuring the iceberg until it was too late and causing the confusion that meant another passing ship, the California, could have come to the aid of survivors but did not.

Bizarrely, a novel called Futility, published in 1898 by British writer Morgan Robertson, told the fictional tale of a supposedly unsinkable boat called the Titan, which sank crossing the Atlantic 14 years before the real-life incident, which was the first major event of the telegraph age, and that became the first global news story.

|<< Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 Next   >>|
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349