Much of Belfast’s waterside heritage is associated with English engineer Edward James Harland (1831–1895) who together with his German-born assistant Gustav Wilhelm Wolff (1834–1913) founded the Harland and Wolff shipbuilding company here in 1861. Starting from a small shipyard on Queen’s Island, the company grew rapidly and over the following decades had gained a reputation for innovations such as iron (rather than wooden) decks and flatter, squarer hulls designed to maximise capacity. The firm continued to flourish after Harland‘s death and Wolff’s retirement, most notably when it constructed three steamships for the White Star Line – the Olympic, the Britannic and, most famously, the Titanic. Completed in 1912, the Titanic, then the world‘s largest passenger-carrying steamship, sank on April 14 of the same year, just four days into her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, having collided with an iceberg in the North Atlantic. More than 1500 of the 2200-plus passengers and crew drowned, a tragedy that continues to hold a macabre fascination today.

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