Samson and Goliath (cranes)
Samson and Goliath are the twin shipbuilding gantry cranes situated at Queen's Island, Belfast, Northern Ireland. The cranes, which were named after the Biblical figures Samson and Goliath, dominate the Belfast skyline and are landmark structures of the city. Comparative newcomers to the city, the cranes rapidly came to symbolise Belfast in a way that no building or monument had hitherto done.
The cranes are situated in the shipyard of Harland & Wolff and were constructed by the German engineering firm Krupp, with Goliath being completed in 1969 and Samson, in 1974. Goliath stands 96 metres (315 ft) tall, while Samson is taller at 106 metres (348 ft). Goliath, the smaller of the two sits slightly further inland closer to Belfast City. At the time Harland & Wolff was one of the largest shipbuilders in the world. The announcement that they were to be built was an important event at the time. Contrary to popular belief, the cranes didn't host the RMS Titanic ship as they were built much later. The H&W logo on Goliath was bolted in place by a shipyard employee, Edward Salmon. Before being apprenticed at the "yard" as it was known locally, he sold newspapers as a boy at the main gate.
Each crane has a span of 140 metres (459 ft) and can lift loads of up to 840 tonnes to a height of 70 metres (230 ft), making a combined lifting capacity of over 1,600 tonnes, one of the largest in the world. Prior to commissioning, the cranes were tested up to 1,000 tonnes, which bent the gantry downwards by over 30 centimetres (12 in). The dry dock at the base of the cranes is the largest in the world measuring 556 m × 93 m. The H&W logo was bolted onto the crane by Edward Salmon a shipyard worker who, before being apprenticed by H&W, sold newspapers at the entrance.
Decline of Harland & Wolff
At its height Harland & Wolff boasted 35,000 employees and a healthy order book, but in the years following the cranes' construction the workforce and business declined. The last ship to be launched at the yard to date was a roll-on/roll-off ferry in March 2003. Since then the yard has restructured itself to focus less on shipbuilding and more on design and structural engineering, as well as ship repair, offshore construction projects and competing for other projects to do with metal engineering and construction. Initially there was concern that the now largely redundant cranes would be demolished. However, later in the year they were scheduled as historic monuments under Article 3 of the Historic Monuments and Archaeological Objects (Northern Ireland) Order 1995.
The cranes are not, technically, ‘listed buildings’, but are recognised by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency as buildings of ‘architectural or historic interest’.
Shipbuilding has ceased in Belfast, but the cranes are to be retained as part of the existing dry dock facility within the restructured shipyard, situated adjacent to the Titanic Quarter, a business, light industrial, leisure and residential development on land now surplus to the heavy industrial requirements of the shipyard on Queen's Island. They are still (2015) kept in working order and used for heavy lifting by Harland & Wolff in its other activities.
On 4 April 2007, Samson crashed into the long jib of smaller rail-mounted "Henson" tower crane, sending the smaller crane tumbling to the ground. The smaller crane weighed 95 tonnes and stood at a height of 25 m, compared to Samson's 106 m. Three industrial painters working on another rail-mounted crane were close to the jib as it fell, eventually crashing onto the ground. Information about the incident was not released until mobile-phone footage of the event was published on YouTube.
In October 2007, Goliath re-entered service after five years, an occurrence described by a company spokesperson as underlining the yard's growing workload.
Notes and references
- "Crane crash did happen". 2007-04-17. Retrieved 2008-11-25.
we can now confirm that Sampson did strike a 25 metre high 95 tonne rail mounted Henson crane, a type of heavy duty tower crane, but it was this crane which came crashing down narrowly missing three men working on (painting) the jib of an almost identical crane nearby. One of the painters filmed the entire event on his mobile phone.
- Crane crash at H&W, at YouTube.
- "Titanic apology to city shipyard". BBC News. 2007-10-05. Retrieved 2007-10-05.
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