Belfast Telegraph

Titanic project on same course as Carrick's Knight Ride?

By Barry White featureseditor@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

IT sailed, It sank, Get over it. Even for a jokey Titanic T-shirt slogan, that is a bit harsh but I confess that has been my attitude in the past to the great Titanic saga. I haven't even watched the film all the way through.

IT sailed. It sank. Get over it. Even for a jokey Titanic T-shirt slogan, that is a bit harsh but I confess that has been my attitude in the past to the great Titanic saga. I haven't even watched the film all the way through.

But now that we're on course - mind those negative icebergs, please! - for a Titanic exhibition at the launch site on Queen's Island, we should all become better informed about the ship.

There's no excuse, for those who have internet access, for not knowing every detail, down to the last demitasse retrieved from the seabed. Type in Titanic and Google has 3,490,000 references and Yahoo has 22,800,000.

But would a hi-tech £100m museum, where it all began, be a major tourist attraction or would it become like Carrickfergus's Knight Ride, rich pickings for the car boot trade?

Already £70,000 of your money has been spent on a consultation exercise and - surprise, surprise - it has come up with a favourable report. The idea is to put a full-scale skeleton of the ship in a dry dock and make it a light sculpture, incorporating a Titanic museum.

Sounds a bit like the dancing queen at Queen's Bridge, but then someone has pointed out that during the day a wire sculpture would hardly be visible. And how would it stand up to the wind and rain?

That's where it gets difficult. How do you stage an interesting exhibition of a famous liner that sank without recreating it? (In Missouri, they built the bow section and funnels, complete with iceberg. Visitors were given passenger names, could send SOS messages and try steering through the icefield.)

Full size would be wildly expensive, so maybe make it to a much smaller scale? The front of the museum could be like the DiCaprio bowsprit.

If you thought there was nothing more to know about the liner as it sits in two parts, 3,890 metres down, you'd be wrong. Another American expedition is just back, after pausing to remember the dead, and has been writing up its log this very week.

The purpose was to find out how the wreck was deteriorating and what, if anything, could be done to preserve it. The main mast, where the "Iceberg right ahead" warning was given - has fallen over the last two years, eight years ahead of the forecast.

A plaque that was left in 1986 has disappeared but it's probably beneath new debris, rather than stolen. A huge bronze propeller is in pristine condition and the serial numbers match Harland and Wolff's records.

The bath and fittings in the captain's cabin are equally undamaged and the Marconi room, where the desperate SOS calls were made, is festooned with wires. In the bridge, I was glad to hear that the treated wood is standing up well to the beetles, since my grandfather, working at J. P. Corry's, is said to have chosen the wood in the Titanic. (He also made a child's cabinet, out of wooden samples. There were little pieces in the tiny drawers, but children who shall be nameless threw them away.)

You can see how I've become hooked at last by the story of the Titanic, a time capsule from a century ago which will be revisited for the rest of time. About 6,000 artifacts have been removed, officially or unofficially, and the rooms where the first class passengers' luggage was stored have yet to be explored.

It's a never-ending drama, which deserves to be told where it all began, but talk of 400,000 visitors a year sounds a bit much, whatever form the centrepiece takes. Get real would be my advice and make sure, at the very least, to secure and preserve the existing buildings at the site.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph