With the centenary approaching, the Titanic is once again big news, particularly in Belfast, where a host of festivities are being designed to mark the opening of the world's largest (and long-overdue) Titanic visitors' attraction. Built in Harland & Wolff as the second of three sister ships for the White Star Line, the Titanic is today probably the most famous ship in history - eclipsing Noah's Ark and Cleopatra's Barge. With several Hollywood blockbusters and television movies made (the most accurate is the brilliant 1958 A Night to Remember) and the discovery of its broken, eerie and rotting wreck at the bottom of the Atlantic in 1985, the Titanic shows little sign of diminishing its hold over the world's imagination.
Much of what happened, or is supposed to have happened, on board the Titanic as she sank has achieved the status of twentieth-century legend - the boasts that she was "unsinkable" (grossly exaggerated and never made by the White Star Line itself), its luxurious first class accommodation, its undiminished speed as it entered the ice field, the bravery of the band as it continued playing throughout the sinking, the insufficient numbers of lifeboats, "Women and Children" first, the high casualty levels in Steerage and the tragic loss of life.
At the time, however, the Titanic did not garner nearly so much media attention as her elder sister ship, the Olympic, which went into service in May 1911, eleven months before Titanic. Titanic's maiden voyage from Southampton on April 10th 1912 did not quite have the same fanfare as Olympic's, but five days later when news broke that the vessel's inaugural trip had ended in the worst maritime disaster, to date, the Titanic shot into her place in popular culture and never left it. Her very name is still synonymous with disaster.