A look into the dry dock.
Upon the completion of the main body of the ship, the Titanic was launched in May 1911 and towed to what would become her home for the next year. Here, in the Titanic Dry Dock, the ship’s colossal funnels (large enough to drive a car through), enormous engines and upper superstructure were all installed. She was then “fitted-out”; her lavish interior of rich carpets, curtains, drapes, beds, tables, chairs and even pianos, were all added. During this time, the ship was delayed due to a repair needed on her sister ship, Olympic, which pulled the men of Harland and Wolff away from the Titanic. It is purposed that if this delay had never occurred; the Titanic would never have met the fate that it did.
Within what was once home to the Titanic during her year on dry land before her completion, the dry dock and pump house are a must visit for anyone interested in or intrigued by this tragic titan. Just up river from the Titanic Centre and proof that her history extends well beyond just the centre itself; the dry dock and pump house is an ideal way to cap off a day in the Titanic Quarter of the city. A modern café waiting just within the entrance enjoys views over Belfast Lough providing a well-earned break and beverage to weary travellers.
Inside the pump-house
Beyond an unassuming door at the room’s end lies the pump-house. When the Titanic was first brought into the dock, giant pipes (another thing you could drive a car through) pumped the dock dry in a mere 1 hour and 30 minutes. When it came to technological innovation, Belfast was the envy of the maritime world. Within the pump house proper resides a mass of pipes and contraptions which once drove the water out. These lie set into the ground below you as you walk along the house’s narrow walkways; ease and safety were two words rarely uttered when it came to industry in Edwardian Britain (8 workers were lost working on the Titanic before she even set off on her maiden journey). Past the main pumps, there is a video re-enactment of what a worker’s account of working within the pump house may have sounded like. Here you’ll gain some extra insight into the process.
Stepping back outside and into the light, you find yourself a few feet from the dry dock itself. The tracks for the transportation of materials are set into the ground beneath your feet and are still present from their original service for the Titanic’s fitting out. Stand against the rail (more than workers at the time received); from here you can appropriately survey what was the world’s largest dry dock at the time. When you reach its base, you’re 44ft below sea level and have the chance to try and visualise the 50,000 tonne goliath in there with you. Want to walk within the Titanic’s very real footprint? This is the place to do it.
Being only 15 minutes down the road from the Titanic Centre, with the Northern Ireland Science park and HMS Caroline (one of the only surviving WWI ships of the British navy) nearby, it is well worth buying a dual ticket for the Titanic Centre and the Dry Dock and Pump-House and seeing both. While the exhibition gives you a background to the famous ship, the Dry Dock goes on to prove the lasting impression the world’s best known ship made.
Words by John Temke.Images from the NITB