THE 31st May, 1911, will remain notable in the annals of shipbuilding and shipowning as witnessing the launch of the Titanic and the departure from Belfast of the Olympic, two vessels which may truly be said to mark an intensely interesting epoch in the history of the mercantile marine. Together they represent an addition to the world’s merchant shipping of about 90,000 gross tons and a capital outlay of some three millions sterling, while for the White Star Line there are now waterborne the two largest steamships so far constructed.
Trials of the “Olympic.”
On the 2nd May, the Olympic underwent her basin trials, engines being turned while the vessel was securely moored in the deep-water fitting-out basin, and this preliminary test proved entirely satisfactory. Prior to leaving for her trials at sea, the ship was thrown open for public inspection, and some thousands of visitors paid 5s. each during the first two hours and 2s. for the remaining three hours, the proceeds—a very considerable sum— being handed to the Belfast hospitals.
The Olympic took on board 3,000 tons of best Welsh coal for her sea trials, and 250 runners were sent over from Liverpool to assist in the navigation of the vessel. At high water on the morning of the 28th May, the task of swinging the liner was entered upon, the Mersey tugs Wallasey, Alexandra, Hornby, and Herculaneum, as well as Messrs. Harland & Wolff’s tug Hercules, completing the operation without a hitch. On the morning of the 29th May, she proceeded down Belfast Lough to adjust compasses and to carry out her steaming trials, the five tugs just named assisting in getting the ship under way and her departure being witnessed by an immense crowd of spectators.
The sea trials extended over two days, and the results obtained greatly exceeded the expectations of both builders and owners. Statistics with regard to the speed, power, consumption, etc., will not be made public; but it is understood that the designed speed of 21 knots was exceeded, and speeds of 21½ and 21¾ knots recorded during the various tests. The new White Star tenders Nomadic and Traffic, designed for the company’s service at Cherbourg and which were completed by Messrs. Harland & Wolff within a month of their launch, were in attendance on the Olympic during her trials. A large party of guests, who had accepted the invitation of the White Star Line to be present at the launch of the Titanic, were conveyed from Fleetwood to Belfast by the specially chartered cross-channel steamer Duke of Argyll; and as that vessel approached Belfast in the early hours of the 31st May, these visitors had a splendid view of the first of the two great sister ships as she lay in the Lough. The photograph which we reproduce in Figure 146 (The “Olympic” on Trial Trip) well illustrates the beautiful lines and stately appearance of the ship. So perfect are her proportions that it is well-nigh impossible for the inexperienced to grasp her magnitude except when seen alongside another vessel.
Departure from Belfast
The launch of the Titanic having passed off successfully a little after midday, in beautiful weather, the tender Nomadic left the quay at Belfast at 2.30 with a small party of representatives of the owners and builders on board, including Mr. J. Bruce Ismay (chairman and managing director of the White Star Line), Lord Pirrie (head of the firm of Harland & Wolff), Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan (who travelled specially from London to witness the launch of the Titanic), and Mr. Harold Sanderson and Mr. H. Concanon of the White Star Line, to join the Olympic. The liner sailed for Liverpool at 4.30 p.m. on the 31st May, having thus been completed and handed over to her owners twenty-nine months after the laying of the keel, and seven months and eleven days after her launch. The Olympic arrived off the Mersey on the 1st June, and was again thrown open for public inspection. She left Liverpool on the same evening for Southampton, to prepare for her maiden voyage to New York, calling at Cherbourg. While in Southampton the vessel was visited by some thousands of people, prior to sailing with a full complement of passengers on the 14th June.