Belfast Celebrates 100th Anniversary of Launch of Doomed Ship Titanic

Posted June 1st, 2011 at 1:45 am (UTC-5)
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The Northern Ireland capital Belfast has marked the 100th anniversary of the launch of the doomed ship Titanic with a celebration.

A flare was set off Tuesday at the exact moment the ship was launched from a Belfast dock 100 years ago, as the city ended a century of downplaying its role in the construction of the vessel. The Titanic sunk on its maiden voyage in 1912 when it hit an iceberg en route from England to New York, killing 1,517 passengers and crew.

The story of the “unsinkable” ship has since been recounted in numerous books and a popular 1997 movie. But a priest, Chris Bennett, who led a memorial service commemorating the launch, noted that the fate of the ship had been Belfast's “shame, our secret.”

After a moment of silence, he led 62 seconds of cheers, the length of time it took for the ship to slide into the Irish Sea when it was launched. He noted that Belfast residents like to say that the ship “was all right when she left us.”

Belfast hopes to capitalize on the fame of the ship, then the largest passenger steamship ever built.

More than $11 billion has been invested in new offices, hotels and science parks on the old shipyard site now known as Titanic Quarter. A $160 million visitors' center keyed to the history of the Titanic is set to open next year. And an exhibition featuring more than 500 artifacts related to the Titanic, some of them previously not made public, has opened at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.