Wednesday 31st May 1911, was an exciting day in Belfast. Following the successful completion of her sea trials, Olympic, Titanic’s near identical sister ship, left Belfast for the first time, ready to begin her maiden voyage; while Titanic was launched into the water, watched by an estimated 100,000 onlookers.
Amongst the crowds, on a specially constructed grandstand, were JP Morgan, the head of IMM; J Bruce Ismay, the managing director of the White Star Line; the Lord Mayor of Belfast, and other important people. Another grand stand was provided for members of the press, most of which had travelled across the Irish sea on a specially charted steamer, the Duke of Argyll. A further two grand stands were provided for ticket holders.
Titanic under construction.
Those who did not have a place on the grandstands took advantage of any other vantage point to view the launch, including at the Albert quay, where the Belfast Harbour Commissioners, had fenced off an area with the best view, so that they could charge a few shillings to raise money for local hospitals. Most of Harland and Wollf’s workers had the day off so that they could watch the occasion.
Shortly after noon red rockets were fired warning people that the launching was imminent. Following a last minute conversation with the foreman in charge of the launching, Lord Pirrie, the chairman of Harland and Wolf, wearing a blue suit and a yachting cap, gave the orders for the last remaining timber supports to be removed, starting the ships journey into the water.
Under her on weight, with the help of over 20 tons of tallow, soap and train oil, Titanic slid down the slipway within 62 seconds, reaching a speed of 12 knots. Once fully in the water, Titanic was stopped by six special anchor chains and 2 piles of cable drag chains, weighing 80 tons each.
Titanic being launched.
After the launching was complete, Titanic was towed by five tug boats to her new berth, ready for the next stage of her construction to begin, which included the finishing of her exterior, installation of machinery, and her luxury interiors.
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