SS Nomadic – Belfast, Northern Ireland - Atlas Obscura

SS Nomadic

The ship built to ferry passengers and goods to the doomed Titanic is now the last remaining White Star Line vessel. 


Commissioned in 1910 by the White Star Line, SS Nomadic was designed by Thomas Andrews (the designer of RMS Titanic) and built by Harland and Wolff (builders of Titanic and Olympic) in the Belfast shipyards (yard number 422, same as the Titanic and Olympic). Unlike the larger and more famous ships she was built to tender to, however, Nomadic is still afloat.

This charming tender ship was officially launched in 1911 and put into service in Cherbourg, France, transporting passengers, luggage, mail, and supplies from the city’s harbor to the massive ocean liners anchored in deeper waters off shore. Nomadic was (and is) exactly one quarter the size of Titanic and boasted many of the same luxurious features and furnishings as the famous Olympic-class liners. She carried 247 passengers from Cherbourg harbor to Titanic for her fateful maiden voyage, including Benjamin Guggenheim, John Jacob Astor, and Margaret Brown (a.k.a. “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”).

Despite Titanic’s demise, Nomadic went on to have a long and eventful career, serving for 57 years as a tender ship for both the White Star and Cunard lines, interspersed with active duty as a patrol boat, troop transport, and mine sweeper / layer in both the First and Second World Wars.

After being taken out of service in 1968, she spent several decades as an entertainment venue on the Seine in Paris. After the venue operator went out of business in 2002, Nomadic sat derelict in Le Havre until the government of Northern Ireland bought her to save her from being scrapped.

These days, she serves admirably in her final role as a historical exhibition at the Hamilton Dry Dock, where she permanently resides. Nomadic has “come home” after an illustrious career that lasted over a century, and in fact now occupies the very dock where it is believed she was originally fitted out. Having deteriorated considerably before her return to Belfast, Nomadic went through a few years of thorough restoration and installation of various interpretive historical exhibits starting in 2010, and was finally opened for tours in 2013. Now, visitors can retrace the footsteps of Titanic passengers by visiting this remarkable little ship.

Know Before You Go

If visiting the Titanic Belfast Exhibition, your ticket also includes a trip to the SS Nomadic; and if you run out of time in the main museum, the ticket remains valid for the next day as well. Those with disability requirements should be aware that not all areas of the ship can be accessed; while the majority is open to view and the lift on board gives easy access to the main levels of the vessel, there are some smaller areas which cannot be reached, such as the crew quarters at the bow of the ship. The original cobblestone dockside can also be slightly bumpy to navigate with a wheelchair in tow. The staff are however, very accommodating and will assist if required. To get to the Nomadic and Queen's Island, the train stop of Titanic Quarter is a short walk away, and can be reached from Great Victoria or Central Station via the Portadown/Bangor route. The number 26 bus from the City Centre leaves passengers across the road from the Dry Dock outside the Belfast Met building. A taxi is also a quick option from the centre of town. Walking, the Titanic Belfast building and the Harland and Wolff cranes dominate the skyline of the island, and can be spotted in the distance from the city centre. There is a pedestrian route located near the edge of town which runs along the river past the Odyssey Pavilion building. Roughly a 15-20 minute walk from the inner city.

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