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THOUSANDS of Titanoraks braved the biting cold to witness the biggest light extravaganza ever seen in Belfast.

The illuminations showcased the new visitor attraction centre -- built to celebrate the centenary of the sinking of the ill-fated vessel.

A combination of 3D imagery, fireworks and strobe lasers retold the legendary story of the iconic ship from its construction to its watery grave in the North Atlantic.

Over 30,000 tourists and locals thronged the very slipway the luxurious White Star Liner graced to watch the spectacle to the sound of haunting Celtic music.

The highlight of the show was the resurfacing of the life-sized ship back to its full glory on the day it set sail on her doomed maiden voyage.

Saturday night's spectacular is one of a number of events in the run up to the 100-year anniversary including an MTV rock concert featuring Pixie Lott and Katy B.

Olly Murs, Sean Paul and Rizzle Kicks will also perform at the open-air gig in front of almost 20,000 fans on Friday.

This follows the grand opening of the €110m Titanic building -- home to the biggest Titanic attraction which has sold over 100,000 tickets in less than 10 days.

The now iconic six-storey structure with 90 foot high protruding bows (the same height as Titanic) symbolises the three giants of the White Star fleet -- Titanic, Olympic and Britannic.

Some say that the fourth bow is in keeping with Titanic's funnel folklore and the fact that only three were functional.

The centre, which hopes to attract 425,000 visitors in its first year charts the tragedy through nine separate exhibitions.

The tale begins in Belfast in the early 1900s -- the industrial heartland of Ireland with a thriving linen, rope and tobacco production.

From there visitors are taken on a Disney-style ride which takes you through the bowels of the Harland and Wolff shipyard and every aspect of how the Titanic was built.

To make the whole experience more lifelike, sparks fly and the smell of smelting iron fills the air while the incessant banging of the rivet men takes you back 100 years.

There, we venture inside the finished liner where three cabins recreated on one floor highlight the very different worlds of first and third class (or steerage) passengers. Here, too, is one of the highlights of the experience -- a 3D virtual tour of the ship from the engine room, floor-by-floor into first class dining, onto the bridge and wheelhouse until you reach the Crow's Nest.



WRECK

Next is an audio gallery with haunting tales from survivors lucky enough to have made it onto a lifeboat while pictures of those who perished adorn the walls.

From then the story moves on to the American and British inquiries held in the wake of the disaster and the myths that have sprung up in the 100 years since.

The final and most poignant section is the discovery of her final resting place and the vivid imagery of the wreck as she sits two and a half miles from the surface.

An eight-minute film in which two mini submarine pilots guide us through parts of the ship highlighting everything from cutlery to Captain Smith's bath tub is so amazing you could watch it over and over.

If that doesn't blow you away then the Titanic Below gallery surely will.

Standing on the glass floor, the ship from the bow to the much more badly damaged stern, is detailed in such a way it almost feels like you are sitting in the sub floating just metres above. On leaving the visitor is issued with a special ticket to mark your journey.

A brilliant tour for fans and the curious alike and it only has one real drawback -- the replica staircase which featured in James Cameron's epic movie.

Unfortunately it is not for public viewing and is held exclusively for corporate events and weddings.

The good news is that another version may be in the pipeline for visitors next year.

Admission prices start at £13.50 for adults and £6.75 for a child.

For further information log on to www.ni2012.com or callsave 1850230230 or go to the Tourist Information Centre, Suffolk Street, Dublin 2.


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