A visit to the Titanic Exhibition is awe-inspiring and tear-jerking

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Because in his hasty departure, he forgot to hand over vital ship keys – including the only one for Titanic’s binocular box. So lookouts on that night in April 1912 had no way to spot the iceberg until it was too late.

The key is among a handful on a rusty tag in a perspex case – one of the most poignant exhibits at the refurbished Titanic Belfast experience which now has four new galleries. We were lucky enough to gain a sneak preview of them earlier this month.

The disaster is known worldwide but the city from which it was launched is also famous in its own way.

Then it was the manufacturing epicentre of Britain and its industrial prowess is chronicled at the start of the Experience through exhibits, footage and photos.

The shipyard’s Sirocco works supplied 70 percent of the world’s tea-drying machinery and invented air conditioning. 

It was also the world’s largest producer of rope. And here Harland & Wolff designed and built the largest ships in the world, including the Titanic.  

The firm’s gigantic yellow cranes, Samson and Goliath, still dominate the skyline. They are now in action as production has begun again at the shipyard.

Titanic Belfast’s distinctive design, represents four ship hulls, clad in more than 3,000 aluminium panels, of differing shapes.

It looms over the slipways that launched Titanic and sister ship Olympic. 

Once inside, you do feel like you’ve stepped back 100 years. There’s a ride in which you tour the shipyard and the harsh back-breaking conditions riveters worked in.

Titanic’s interiors are reimagined, from the luxurious oak panelling and embossed wallpaper in first class to third with bare oak bunks for labourers, servants and semi-skilled workers heading to America for a new life.

My first “lump in the throat” moment came before a wall listing the names of all who perished which had a Titanic lifejacket placed in front.

The first of the new galleries, Never Again, features large screens that detail safety measures since put into place such as transmitting all important messages, proper lookouts at all times, and speed regulations near ice.

The Ballard’s Quest gallery is named after Dr Robert Ballard who discovered the wreck in 1985 using an unmanned vessel, returning the following year in a submarine that captured images from inside Titanic. 

The Ship of Dreams again tugs at the heartstrings. Full-height projections on circular walls show images of construction workers and those heading to a new life in New York. In the middle of the gallery is a suspended 25ft model of Titanic.

Below it are extraordinary artefacts: musician Wallace Hartley’s violin, the sheepskin coat worn by stewardess Mabel Bennett and a cane with an electric light, owned by First Class passenger Ella White.

There’s also a deckchair, one of six that survived, and a stopwatch whose hands “froze” at 1.37am, the moment owner Malcolm Joakim Johnson was immersed in the icy waters. 

Finally, in The Lasting Legacy you can have your own “Rose and  Jack” moment on the bow of the ship. This is a moving, compelling and informative exhibition.

 Just don’t forget to pack your tissues.


Titanic Hotel Belfast has doubles from £209, B&B, with two tickets to Titanic Belfast. titanichotelbelfast.com


Flights from Heathrow to Belfast City from £35 one way. ba.com





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