I watched a recent episode of StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson broadcast on the National Geographic Channel. He was discussing the intersection of storytelling, exploration and science. The set-up of the show has deGrasse Tyson interview a featured guest, then he shares his interview with Chuck Nice, a comedian, Charles Liu, an astrophysicist and a live audience. On this night, the ‘star’ was James Cameron.
“You know, I was a real science geek” Cameron
I was somewhat shocked to be reminded while watching this show that it has already been 20 years since Cameron’s movie Titanic came out. Can it be that long ago that the excitement and curiosity led me to reading all the classic books about this tragic sinking of the Titanic 105 years ago.
The Titanic was designed in 1908 and shipbuilding began in 1909. I was lucky enough this spring to visit Titanic Belfast, a major visitor attraction, located on the former shipyards of Harland and Wolff where the Titanic was built. Titanic Belfast opened in 2012. This museum has been featured on television travel shows and by travel bloggers. I put it on the top of my list when I had the opportunity to visit Belfast. As of 2016, it was the number one tourist attraction in the world as ranked by World Travel Awards (also known as the Tourism Oscars). Even though it attracts almost half a million visitors per year, there was no sense of overcrowding since the experience is extremely well organized in terms of layout and timed entry tickets. I was able to pace myself comfortably throughout my visit taking time to see all the displays.
Yes, there is a lot of history displayed throughout the 12,000 square metres (almost 1.5 Canadian football fields) but the visitor is also availed of a great deal of engineering and science looking at the displays.
One very impressive gallery presents the Titanic as seen 3700 metres underwater. As I peered through the glass floor I felt as if I were in the submersible making the exploration. Additionally, there are opportunities to learn about the marine biology and exploration of Northern Ireland coastal waters.
“In high school, I took a bus to school an hour each way every day. And I was always absorbed in a book, science fiction book, which took my mind to other worlds, and satisfied, in a narrative form, this insatiable sense of curiosity that I had.” Cameron
Although many people rushed on through, one impressive display that stopped me completely was a large poster board with the title ‘A Day in the Life of…’. This display is composed of a flat screen TV surrounded by selected science professions. The instructions are to touch the screen to learn about the jobs: hydrographer, research scientist, fisheries scientist, ROV pilot technician, marine biologist and even science communicator. A young person taking time at this interactive exhibit will get career counselling regarding science careers.
What a thrill it was to go through this top-ranked tourist attraction and find that science and engineering are featured.