Building Titanic, by National Geographic in collaboration with developer Neo-Pangea (released for the Titanic‘s centennial in April 2012), is a stunning nonfiction app for everyone from elementary-aged students to adults. Most Titanic media, understandably, focuses on the ship’s sinking; as the name suggests, this app instead gives an inside look into a remarkable technological achievement: constructing the ship.
Along the bottom of the screen runs a timeline from 1907 — when the idea of the Titanic and its sister ships Olympic and Gigantic was first proposed by White Star Line’s managing director J. Bruce Ismay — to the ocean liner’s maiden voyage in 1912. Each of these historical moments, and five others in between, offers period images of the Titanic, beginning with its architectural plan. At each stop on the timeline, users tap the screen to reveal concise information about specific aspects of the ship and its construction (e.g., “Framing Titanic,” “Installing the Funnels,” “Interior Decorating”), more photos and diagrams, and even a few archival video clips (such as workers riveting the hull into place and a promotional video on “The Titanic Experience”). The text highlights labor conditions for the crews building the ship and the realities of travel for its third-class passengers.
The main attraction of this app: traveling from spot to spot on the timeline triggers a series of time-lapse photographs of the ship’s construction. Watching the Titanic progress from design on paper to a frame in the shipyard, from an empty hull tethered at the wharf to the world’s most luxurious ocean liner in a matter of seconds is incredible — and sobering. While the app does primarily present the ship’s construction, the subsequent tragedy haunts the text; many of the facts presented give insight into the disaster. I was surprised to learn that the Titanic actually exceeded many safety requirements of the day, even though it only had enough lifeboats aboard for a third of its total capacity.
Engrossing and accessible, Building Titanic gives users a rare perspective of the infamous ocean liner. Available for iPad; free.