History In The Headlines

Titanic Today: A Transatlantic Tour

By Barbara Maranzani
The loss of RMS Titanic and the deaths of 1,500 of its passengers and crew shocked the world in April 1912. However, some cities had a more immediate and personal connection to the famed ship than others. From the Belfast shipyards where Titanic took shape to the Halifax cemeteries that are home to some of its dead, here are five places you can visit that today, 100 years after the disaster, are still affected by Titanic.

Belfast

Titanic Belfast, an exhibition center focusing on the Titanic story, opened on March 31, 2012, near the site where Titanic was built. (Credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Belfast’s Titanic Quarter gives visitors the chance to see where Titanic was born.
Perhaps no other city can lay claim to Titanic as can Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was here that the ship was commissioned, designed and constructed at the massive Harland and Wolff shipyards. It took nearly three years to build Titanic, and 3,000 of the shipbuilder’s employees worked on the vessel. On April 2, 1912, after completing sea trials, Titanic departed Belfast for the first and last time, carrying mostly crew, including head designer Thomas Andrews. Today, 100 years after the sinking, the city’s Titanic Quarter features a wide array of sites commemorating the disaster, including the dry dock where Titanic and its sisters ships Britannic and Olympic were constructed, the original Harland and Wolff headquarters and drafting offices, and the newly opened Titanic Belfast, a state-of-the-art museum that includes artifacts and full-scale recreations of much of the ship.

Cobh

The pier in Cobh, Ireland, where some of Titanic’s passengers boarded still stands today.

Titanic’s final port of call was a main departure point for Irish immigrants.
Titanic’s final port of call before its transatlantic journey was Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland, where it stopped briefly on April 11, 1912. An additional 123 passengers boarded there, many of them Irish, as Queenstown was the departure point for more than one-third of all Irish emigrating to the United States. Local vendors rowed out to the ship to sell handmade goods on board. At 1:30 p.m. local time, Titanic pulled up anchor and once again set sail. Today visitors to Cobh can view the original pier that carried passengers out to Titanic as well as the building that once housed the White Star Line’s offices.

Southampton

A ceremony in Southampton, England, pays tribute to the 549 residents from the city who died when Titanic sank. (Credit: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)

More than a third of all of Titanic’s victims hailed from one English city.
Titanic arrived in Southampton, on the southern coast of England, on April 5, 1912. For the next five days Dock Gate 4 would be the ship’s home, a mooring that had been specially designed and constructed to accommodate the White Star Line’s new, massive Olympic-class ocean liners. It was in Southampton that most of Titanic’s supplies were loaded, much of the ship’s crew was hired and the majority of its passengers boarded. At noon local time on April 10, 1912, Titanic departed Southampton for its next port of call, narrowly avoiding a collision with a smaller ship, SS New York, which was ripped from its own mooring by the massive tidal waves caused by Titanic’s movement.

Just days later, news of the Titanic disaster devastated the city. Many of Titanic’s crewmembers hailed from Southampton, and more than a third of the ship’s victims—549 people—called the city home. Today the city features dozens of memorials to the dead, including one dedicated to the eight doomed musicians who served as members of Titanic’s band, and a newly opened maritime history museum that explores the impact of Titanic on the people of Southampton. Visitors can even sneak a peek at Dock Gate 4, now known as Ocean Dock, where Titanic spent some if its final days.

Pier 54

When Carpathia arrived in New York with survivors of the Titanic disaster, it docked at Pier 54.

Titanic’s survivors arrived in New York, but not where they had expected to dock.
Titanic’s final destination was to be Pier 59 in New York City, owned by the White Star Line and located in what is now the city’s Chelsea neighborhood. Instead, Titanic’s survivors arrived in New York aboard Carpathia, a passenger steamship owned by White Star’s biggest rival, the Cunard Line. After a brief stop at Pier 59 to drop off Titanic’s lifeboats, Carpathia traveled just a few blocks south to the Cunard mooring at Pier 54 in Greenwich Village, where an anxious crowd numbering in the thousands awaited news of loved ones. Just three years later, Pier 54 played a pivotal role in another maritime disaster as the departure site of the Cunard ship Lusitania, which was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915. Lusitania sank in less than 20 minutes, killing nearly 2,000 passengers and crew, and contributed to America’s eventual entry into World War I.

Pier 54 continued operations for much of the 20th century, serving as a dock for luxury liners, World War II transport ships and freight lines. Cunard’s lavish passenger depot, designed by the same firm that built New York’s Grand Central Station, later fell into disrepair and was demolished in the 1990s. However, the original pier and entry archway used by Titanic’s survivors in April 1912 are still standing and are now part of Hudson River Park, a popular recreational area.

Halifax

A grave in Halifax, Novia Scotia, was erected in memory of an unidentified child victim of the Titanic disaster. (Credit: Jim.henderson/Wikimedia Commons)

Halifax, Nova Scotia, is the final resting place of 150 of Titanic’s victims.
In the days after the disaster, the White Star Line commissioned CS Mackay-Bennett, a cable repair ship based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to aid in the recovery of bodies from Titanic. In a cruel twist of fate, the Mackay-Bennett departed on April 17, the day Titanic was due to arrive in New York City. Over the next several days, additional recovery ships would join Mackay-Bennett, all carrying undertakers, clergymen, body bags and embalming fluid. The first victims were not found until April 21, a week after the disaster. Despite the best efforts of the crews only 328 bodies were recovered, including that of Titanic’s wealthiest passenger, John Jacob Astor IV. Due to the badly decomposed state of many of the bodies, 119 of Titanic’s victims were buried at sea. The remaining 209 were brought back to Halifax.

More than 30 undertakers from around Nova Scotia traveled to Halifax to assist the families, and for the next several weeks a local sporting rink served as a temporary morgue set up to assist in identification. Eventually, 150 of the recovered bodies were buried in three of Halifax’s cemeteries, including Fairview Lawn Cemetery, where a special section paid for by the White Star Line is home to 121 victims. There are dozens of Titanic-related sites in Halifax, including churches that held services for the ship’s victims, memorials and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which houses a permanent exhibition illustrating Halifax’s role as the final resting place of many of Titanic’s dead.

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Categories: Titanic