7000 Wonders

7000 Wonders

ArticleA Time Machine

Edward Porper

Edward Porper

4 min read

Cobh, a small town situated on Cork harbour, is special in so many ways that it's almost unfair to mention it in passing. Its population is about 13,000 people - barely enough to call it a “town” - but among them were many notable personalities: scientists, architects, actors and athletes, such as a prominent Olympian Sonia O'Sullivan, or a famous footballer Roy Keane. Its cathedral is the 4th tallest church in Ireland, deemed by some the most beautiful one. 


A town with three names - called “Cove” in 1750, it was renamed to “Queenstown” in 1849 to commemorate Queen Victoria's visit, and reversed into the Gaelic form of its original name in 1921 to mark Irish independence - Cobh also has two nicknames. One of them is “The Colourful Town”, and any picture of a typical street in Cobh makes it perfectly clear, where that name came from

DSCF0198.JPGThe other nickname is “the last port of call", and it refers to the arguably most ill-starred ship in human history, RMS Titanic…

The museum devoted to the story of the ship is called “Titanic Experience”, and that's a remarkably fitting name. While most museums strive to educate and/or entertain, the one in Cobh is first and foremost about providing an experience - whatever its guests learn during their visit (and that's a lot!), they do by experiencing it firsthand. Under usual circumstances, that would be called a “hands-on approach” but in this case the term might be misleading - there aren't really many opportunities to handle objects. So, a new term needs to be coined, and that term is “soul-on”. The immersion begins quite literally at the bottom of the stairs leading to the entrance - the museum is located right on the waterfront, and it's not a coincidence as History itself must have chosen that location for the White Star Line's box-office more than a century ago. That's where the 123 passengers about to board the ship had bought their ticket in 1912 - and that's where thousands of history buffs and regular tourists buy their tickets nowadays. 


The same tickets: not only do they look identical with the original ones but the names on them are the same as well! In other words, each visitor is assigned the identity of a real passenger, one of the 123. Not to forget, only 44 of them eventually survived (and only 6 men out of 67)…

The door leading to the “ship” is right past the box-office, and that's where the tour begins. Every guest is greeted by the captain (whose story is being told in the meantime),


then shown hir cabin in the first, second or third class.


Practical announcements (meal times, entertainment options and such) are made, and the party starts…to never end for way too many…

The tour is relatively long as there is a lot to cover. There are several actual hand-on stations, and there are rooms full of pictures and explanations, both are rather gloomy as they deal with the sinking part of the story. And the closer it is to the end of the tour, the more burning one particular question becomes: “Did my alter-ego passenger survive?” One has to wait until the very last room and very last station to type the passenger's name on a computer - then the answer reveals itself. For most, it's short and anything but sweet, and it's easy to see how they bite their lips and quickly turn away from the screen. For precious few, the picture is the opposite, and their eyes stay riveted to that screen. When they finally leave, their step is light, and a happy smile is dancing all over their face…

Whatever it is, the ultimate despair or joy, it's an experience not to forget for a very, very long time - and the stroke of genius enabling that experience might be in contention for the title of “the most creative wonder ever”.