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Titanic Belfast

Who would let a bear run a ship?! Of course he’d want to stop at an iceberg! This is our friend the captain bear from the Titanic, the giant famous ship that was supposed to be unsinkable, but sank anyway on its first voyage across the Atlantic. They’ve made a bunch of movies about it, but not a lot of people know the Titanic ship was built in Belfast, in Northern Ireland. In 2012, they opened a special exhibit there at the dock where the big ship was built, and the Titanic Captain Bear is the mascot. He's not a Teddy Bear, (he's Irish), and he mostly hangs around the gift shop, greeting people who come to visit.

Titanic sailed from Southampton, England on April 10, 1912, and after picking up passengers in Cherbourg, France like the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown and the world’s most richest man, Benjamin Guggenheim , then a last stop for mostly third class immigrants in Cobh on the southern Ireland coast, the Titanic headed off across the North Atlantic towards New York, but on the night of April 14, 1912, hit an iceberg at 11:40 pm and sank to the bottom of the ocean two and a half hours later on the 15th of April 1912.

The Belfast part of the story is that the Titanic was born over a dinner party. The White Star Line of passenger ships was bought by Bruce Ismay’s father with the promise that the ships would be built Harland & Wolff Shipyards on Queens Island in Belfast. The company was competing with its main rival the Cunard Line (see Queen Mary Teddy Bears) that had the fastest ocean liners at the time and was winning the transatlantic crossing routes with its ships the Mauretania and the Lusitania. (The Lusitania would get sunk later in another famous story, but more on that later.) After dinner, when everybody (or at least all the men) were smoking cigars, Lord William Pirrie, the head of the Harland & Wolff Shipyard said he could build the largest and most luxurious ocean cruise liner. Why compete with Cunard on speed when they could best them with luxury and size, because everyone knows size counts, especially when you’re smoking cigars.

The keel of the Titanic was laid at the shipyard on March 30 of 1909 and the after two years of construction, she was launched from the slipway on May 11, 1911. She was still just a hull and superstructure and was towed to the dry dock, where she would be fitted out with all the rooms and ballrooms, to attract the super wealthy of the time like John Jacob. The Titanic was actually built beside a twin sister ship, the Olympic. After a short sea trail on the Belfast Loch, the Titanic set off for Southampton and her starring role in tragic movies. Lots of kids on the Titanic had Teddy Bears (see Teddy Bear History) with them, but most of then sank, too.

There are a bunch of things to see about the Titanic in Belfast. The Titanic Belfast Experience is like an amusement park inside a building with virtual recreations of the building yards, and the rooms of the ship and life on board, and a movie theater that shows the underwater discovery of the wreck. The Titanic Drydock is a really, really big concrete hole in the ground where the ship was fitted out with all the decorations and equipment, and the pump house that pumped out the water. The SS Nomadic which was the little sister ship which carried the rich passengers from Cherbourg harbor out to the big ship. And stop by to say hello to the Titanic Bear…just don’t mention the iceberg thing, he’s kind of sensitive about it.

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