Today is a huge day in Titanic-world. On 31st May 1911 at 12:13 (two minutes earlier than planned) the triggers were released on the largest man-made moving object in the world – and RMS Titanic slid and scraped down the slipway in a speedy 62 seconds.
So it’s exactly 102 years to the day – which means it’s exactly two years since the Dock Chaplains led this 62-second cheer, and exactly one year since I made this 62(ish)-second sprint.
On the same day, Titanic’s almost-identical sister RMS Olympic left her Belfast birthplace – and, almost unnoticed amidst such mighty events, the little tender ship SS Nomadic also left Belfast to start serving the huge ocean liners at the port of Cherbourg. Anyone watching the Nomadic chug down Belfast Lough would scarcely have believed that she would outlive the gargantuan ships she had been built to serve.
(My Titanorak friend Ashlin tells me that Nomadic’s first act of service was to transport the visiting White Star Line dignitaries who had watched Titanic’s launch – including Bruce Ismay and J.P. Morgan – out to the waiting Olympic – which then left them back to Liverpool where she was opened up to an awestruck public for a week before steaming down to Southampton to start her life of service. So this is a day of many anniversaries!)
This year, of course, Nomadic’s anniversary is being celebrated by the long-awaited moment that her doors are opened to the world again. Today we stood on the decks that once echoed to Molly Brown’s high heels, ate lunch while sitting on the benches once occupied by J. J. Astor’s posterior, climbed the stairways in the footsteps of Benjamin Guggenheim, and declared SS Nomadic open for business once more!
(And I did enjoy noticing that, prominently displayed just behind all the dignitaries who gave speeches at the opening were the signs and logo of a certain lovely wee cafe next door. Any excuse for publicity…)
A few days ago, some lucky members of The Dock were part of a sneak preview visit of the ship – here are a few of their reactions:
So hopefully you’ll be booking your tickets now…?!
And if you’d like to find out more you can catch up on the story of Nomadic here.
And finally… as if that wasn’t enough maritime marvellousness for one week, the Dock team had the great privilege yesterday of meeting groups of Japanese tourists visiting Belfast on board the Peace Boat.
The Dock volunteers did a fantastic job – showing off their love of our great wee city with groups of students – who got the (erroneous?) impression that the sun always shines in Belfast…
Showing our visitors the sights of the city, enjoying fish & chips, overcoming the language barrier with the universal language of Titanic (as you can see from the first pic below), and finishing up the day at the Grand Staircase in Titanic Belfast enjoying a display of Norn Irish and Japanese culture… it was a day to remember!