|The Voyage out of
These were exciting time for the city of Belfast. On May 31, 1911, while the Olympic was completing her sea trials, crowds were assembling for the eagerly awaited launch of the Titanic. On September 18, 1911, White Star announced the date of Titanics maiden voyage. It would be March 20, 1912. But two days later, an incident while Captain Smith was piloting the Olympic, forced the date to be changed to Wednesday, April 20, 1912. The day was clear and mild. The yard workers and their families milled around the area alongside the River Lagan, eager to obtain a good vantage point. In many cases, the necessitated scaling walls, stacks of coal or timber and anything else that could be climbed.
White Star had invited the press and a party of dignitaries over for the launch and the specially chartered steamer Duke of Argyll transported them across the Irish Sea from Fleetwood (in Lancashire). To accommodate the guests, admission was by invitation only, three stands were built in the ship yard close to the Titanic. Among the guests was J. Pierpont Morgan, effectively the owner of the Titanic (The American Investor), who had traveled from the United States especially for the occasion. As the Duke of Argyll approached Belfast at around 7:30am, those on board got a splendid view of Titanic's sister ship, the Olympic, as she dock in Lough.
The city was filled with activity. A ferry charged 2s (shillings) for a cruise past the Olympic in Belfast, Lough, and back in time for the launch of the Titanic. The Belfast Harbor Commissioners fenced off the section of the Albert Quay, the area with the best view of the proceedings, and charged a few shillings for entry. All proceeds went to city hospitals. By 11:00am, special trams were running down Corporation Street towards the waterfront, and shortly afterwards the railway steamer, Slieve Bearnagh, departed from the Queen's Bridge filled with another load of sightseers. As launched time approached, the stands were filled to capacity and the banks of the Lagan River were lined with spectators. Estimates size the crowd present at over 100,000, a third of the city's population. This was record event in the history of Belfast.
Shortly before noon, Lord Pirrie started receiving his distinguished guests at the shipyard's main offices on Queen's Road. Promptly at noon, he led the guests to the nearby observation stands, which allowed a splendid view of slip No. 3, where the Titanic stood with a fresh coat of black paint. Along the top of the gantry flew three flags - the Stars and Stripes, the Union Jack, and in the middle was the big red company pennant with its five-pointed white star. Below flew a row of signal flags that spelt out "GOOD LUCK." To facilitate the ship's passage, her slipway had been covered in 22 tons of soap, tallow, grease, and train-oil, spread an inch thick.
With everyone sitting comfortably, Lord Pirrie, wearing a yachting cap, inspected the launching gear for the final time. It was a big day for him. Not only did it mark the launch of his latest mammoth liner, but it was both his and Lady Pirrie's birthdays. At 12:05pm, a red signal flag was hoisted on the sternpost of the Titanic to warn tugboats and other small crafts to keep clear. At 12:10pm, a red rocket was fired, this was the five minute signal.
At 12:14pm, a second rocket soared into the blue sky. There was a hush of anticipation as Lord Pirrie conveyed his instructions to the launch foreman. As the last of the timber supports were knocked away, the ship stood motionless for what seemed like an eternity before a mighty cheer erupted, followed by a cry of "There she goes!" The soap and tallow had done the trick and Titanic slid slowly into the water at 12:15:02pm. There had been no official naming of the ship, no champagne ceremony. A shipyard worker explained the White Star philosophy to an inquiring visitor: "They just builds 'er and shoves 'er in."
The ship reached a speed of 12 knots before the hull was pulled up and held in place by special anchors, which had been embedded in the riverbed. These anchors were connected by seven-inch steel wire hawsers to eye-plates riveted to the hull plating. After the crowds had been allowed to soak u the awesome sight, the hull was detached from its restraining anchors and towed to its berth by five Liverpool tugboats.
The Olympic Enters Service