On 1st February, our school took a trip to the Titanic museum in Belfast. We had a tour guide called Rob who took us around the museum. He told us about the earlier history of Belfast as a producer of linen, rope, tobacco and of course ships. We were shown through a slideshow of pictures of Belfast. Over the years that the river widened out into the sea as the city grew.
As a group we all went up to press against the window to see the slipways where Titanic and her sister ship Olympic were built and set to sail, grey lines marking out the huge shape of each ship. People on the ground below us seemed like ants.
Learning about Harland & Wolff’s huge shipbuilding history taught me and no doubt some of my peers some surprising facts. It was also very serious and saddening to learn about the workers building the ship and how they couldn’t see in front of their faces because the scaffolding was so tall it was in the clouds. They often lost their footing and fell as a consequence.
The shipyard ride was very informative as well as enjoyable. One gets into a car with a bar over their lap, and it travels around a circuit while voices narrate their experiences with the Titanic. There are visual representations of how when hammering the sheets of metal together, two men on one side would do the actual hammering and two on the other side would hold a tool similar to a hammer up to the spot where the bolt was being pushed through. We were carried up and down, feeling the blazing heat of a furnace on our faces and seeing pictures and videos all while being taught about the hardships of working on ‘the Unsinkable Ship’. Hearing the Morse code the ship sent out and the voice of the last living survivor of the Titanic recount her story struck something a little serious in me, so hurrying to the model of the ship and the recreation of the cabins was liberating from the solemnity.
We got to sit down on the floor and were taken on a virtual journey from the very depths of the engine room to the first class area while music and sound played all around us. It was like virtual reality that we could all experience together.
After a short break it was time to go and take part in the Abandon Ship workshop. We were separated into three groups: Titanic, Olympic and Britannic. We had to crowd into lifeboats in our three teams with fifteen items and a clipboard per person. First we had to rank them in order of importance individually according to how helpful they would be for us to survive We were told we were lost at sea and rescue was the number-one priority. Then we would discuss as a team and rank them officially as a group. My group, the Olympic, got the best score. I was honestly surprised but pleased at how many my team got right. As the answers were revealed, some of them weren’t what you would generally expect.
By Megan Cowan