A Titanic visit

The Titanic Museum in Belfast. Huon Hooke

When the Titanic set sail from Southampton in 1912, it had the best of every foodstuff imaginable aboard, including over 1,500 bottles of wine, including France’s finest.

No doubt there will be great interest in the bottles that will some day be recovered from the wreck, as they will be among the oldest in existence and the cold temperature and lack of movement for 112 years may have preserved their contents. I say ‘may’ because if sea water has got past the corks—and the pressure at the depth of 3,800 metres must be immense—they won’t be worth drinking.

The Titanic Museum is a most impressive thing to visit. It stands on the site where the ship was built and its sides are the same breathtaking height as the ship’s bow.

That won’t stop the gilt-edged auction houses from selling them off at ridiculous prices, of course.

One website I checked after visiting the superb Titanic Museum in Belfast recently confused champagne bottles found in a wreck in the Baltic Sea off Finland with the Titanic! It said the wines had been tasted—but these were bottles that had lain just 50m under the sea, not 3,800m, and in the Baltic, not the North Atlantic off Newfoundland!

The Titanic Museum is a most impressive thing to visit. It stands on the site where the ship was built and its sides are the same breathtaking height as the ship’s bow. The exhibition talks about the social history of Belfast which is one of its most interesting aspects. It moves on to the history of the docks and ship building industry, the building and launch of the Titanic and its sister ship the Olympic. The sinking and its devastating aftermath are the gravest parts of the exhibition: the names of all 1,500 victims are on a large wall at the end, and the crowds are respectfully silent and thoughtful.

The tragedy shocked and scarred Belfast for a long time and was not talked about, as locals felt humiliated. There would also have been superstition. Only in recent times has it become recognised that the creation of the biggest ships ever built up to that time was something worth celebrating.

But don’t hold your breath for a chance at the wines.


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