105 Years Ago: #Titanic Cities Revisited #TuesdayTravels

Tuesday Travels
This week marks the 105th anniversary of the ill-fated voyage of RMS Titanic. When I went on my cruise around the British Isles in 2015, we visited at three of the Titanic cities: Belfast where the ship was built, Southampton where the voyage began, and Cobh/Queenstown where the ship made it’s final stop before meeting it’s fate.

Belfast now hosts the Titanic Visitor Centre at the location where the ship was built. The design of the museum reflects the bow of the ship, making it architecturally interesting. We could see it in the distance as our bus left the docks for the drive to Londonderry. If I ever make it back to Belfast for more than a day, I’d like to tour the centre.

Titanic visitor centre

Titanic visitor centre–©surangastock

The Titanic was launched from the Belfast docs on May 31, 1911, and towed to a fitting-out dock for interior construction. It was the largest passenger ship of its day, but as we know now, had some fatal defects. One was in the construction of the supposedly water-tight compartments that made the ship almost unsinkable, according to the White Star Line. Obviously they overestimated the efficacy of the design. The other fatal flaw came from the fact that the ship carried only enough lifeboats to accommodate 1/3 of the passengers and crew.

Titanic Memorial

The Titanic Engineers Memorial in Southampton, UK. The Titanic sank on it’s maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, April 15th 1912. 2012 marks the centenary of the event. –©rixipix

The plaque on the memorial reads:

15TH APRIL 1912.

Our 2015 cruise on the Royal Princess started from the English port of Southampton, as did the Titanic’s inaugural and only voyage. Passengers began boarding the Titanic on the morning of Wed. April 10th 1912. There were three classes of accommodations: First, Second and Third classes. The First Class cabins were full of wealthy and famous people, including John Jacob Astor IV and his young second wife, Isidor Straus (owner of Macy’s Department Store) and his wife, Benjamin Guggenheim and the famous Molly Brown of musical comedy fame.

That evening, Titanic docked briefly in Cherbourg, France to pick up more passengers. (Unlike a cruise where such a short stop would anger passengers eager to explore every possible port.) At 9PM Titanic sailed again for its final port stop.

City of Cobh, County Cork, Ireland

City of Cobh, County Cork, Ireland

On Thursday, April 12th, Titanic arrived in Queenstown (now Cobh) in what was then part of the United Kingdom, but is now the Republic of Ireland. Cobh was one of our port stops, and I found it a charming and picturesque city, despite the gray skies that greeted us.

Titanic Memorial at Cobh

Titanic Memorial at Cobh, Ireland

Reminders of the Titanic are numerous in the docks area of Cobh, despite the fact that the ship docked for only an hour and a half. The final group of doomed passengers boarded the ship that afternoon. I imagine most were never seen again, since they were unlikely to be among the wealthy in First Class.

RMS Titanic

the Titanic Passenger Liner on the afternoon of the fateful day it sank
@ CoreyFord

The Titanic’s passengers had two mostly uneventful days (unlike the James Cameron movie, which was full of drama) at sea. Then on April 14, at approximately 11:30PM, Titanic side swiped an iceberg and the unsinkable ship started to fill with water. The ship sank around 2:20AM on April 15, taking all but 705 of the souls on board down with it.

In the aftermath of the Titanic’s sinking, maritime laws changed, requiring passenger ships to carry enough lifeboats to accommodate everyone on board, changing the shipping lanes southward to avoid icebergs, and setting up the wireless distress call of SOS.

Side note: the wireless was a new, sexy technology, and the operators were kept busy sending personal message for the wealthy passengers. Later, wireless communications were reserved only for ship business, such as weather reports.

Even after more than a hundred years, the story of the Titanic continues to fascinate us. If you’re interested in more details, I recommend the extensive Wikipedia page on the Titanic and the book A Night To Remember by Walter Lord, which I reviewed on this blog. The book was written in the mid-1950s and much is based on the memories of some survivors.

The sinking of the Titanic is an epic human tragedy, a tale of greed, hubris and incompetence, cowardice and courage, and of love and sacrifice. No wonder it still fascinates after all this time.

Will you be watching the movie Titanic this week? I haven’t decided.



Ireland’s “Titanic” Cities: Belfast and Cobh #TuesdayTravels

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This week is the 104th anniversary of the SS Titanic’s maiden and only voyage, so it seems appropriate to highlight Belfast and Cobh, two of Ireland’s cities with ties to the ship.

The Titanic was built at the Belfast shipyards, and now the city has the largest Titanic attraction in the world, Titanic Belfast. Linda and I had recently toured the Titanic Artifact Exhibit in Buena Park, California, not far from where we live, so we decided to skip Titanic Belfast in favor of walking the walls of Londonderry. (I wish there had been time to do both.) We did get a brief glimpse of the attraction from the motorcoach, though my photo isn’t the best.

Titanic Belfast

Titanic Belfast is built on the site where Harland and Wolff shipyard, where the ship was built, was once located. The ship was launched from the shipyard on May 31, 1911 and towed to a dock for outfitting and finishing of the interior. For more information, check out this page from history.com.

Two days later, we docked at Cobh, pronounced Cove, which is what the name means, in County Cork. Cobh, or Queenstown, as it was called then, was Titanic’s last port of call before heading into the North Atlantic to meet its fate. Cobh is a lovely port city with reminders of Titanic, as in this 100-year memorial.

Titanic Memorial

The Titanic docked in Cobh on April 11 to pick up 123 passengers. This lovely town was the last glimpse of civilization seen by Titanic’s passengers.

Cobh with cathedral

colorful Cobh houses

It’s amazing how the story of the Titanic still fascinates after more than one hundred years. We may not realize what a big deal the sinking was, but it changed maritime law forever. Before the Titanic, ships weren’t required to have enough lifeboats to accommodate everyone on board. Wireless devices on the ship were used for passenger’s private messages, not to monitor sea conditions. Another change is that shipping lanes were moved further south away from the iceberg fields. Later in the week, I’ll post my review of Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember, a non-fiction account of the voyage.

I fell in love with County Cork and will report on more of what we saw there in future Tuesday Travels.