Belfast hopes Titanic proves big tourist draw

One hundred years ago next week, work was completed on what may be the most famous ship ever built -- the Titanic.

The great liner was doomed, sinking in the North Atlantic on April 15, 1912, never completing her maiden voyage.

But the Titanic's memory is being celebrated in the city where she was built -- Belfast, Northern Ireland.

When the Titanic departed the shipyard, she was already a big story. She still is, 100 years later.

Now, images of the Titanic resting on the Atlantic seabed form a central part of a new exhibition center Belfast residents hope will spur a tourism bonanza.

Gallery: Rare Titanic photos, letters auctioned off

The center, on the site where the ship was built, is supposed to be a symbol of the new Belfast, celebrating the crafts and history of shipbuilding the city was once known for.

The Titanic Belfast's Tim Husbands says, "It's a recognition that what happened to the Titanic was a disaster, but actually, the Titanic wasn't, so we're very much celebrating the workmanship and the craftsmanship that built the ship and the people and the individuals that were both on board and also that built it."

The anniversary has launched a thousand commemorations - or so it seems - the biggest of which is the re-release of the movie, in 3D. Some have called the re-launch a cynical commercial ploy.

But its director, James Cameron, insists his motivation was more than profit.

"There's always going to be people that can piss in the soup of anything good," he remarked. "But frankly, I think remembering Titanic, remembering the history - that's what the film was there for. That's why I made it, you know. I was fascinated by the story, I was fascinated by the history."

A hundred years later and Titanic is still a great tragedy - and still a great story.

  • Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips is CBS News senior foreign correspondent, based in London.