A TITANIC EFFORT | Wattle Grove engineer makes a splash | TITANIC ARTEFACTS GALLERY

A TITANIC EFFORT | Bernie Dohnt, of Wattle Grove, with his scale replica of RMS Titanic now on show at the huge exhibition at Moore Park.
A TITANIC EFFORT | Bernie Dohnt, of Wattle Grove, with his scale replica of RMS Titanic now on show at the huge exhibition at Moore Park.

Wattle Grove marine engineer Bernie Dohnt took two years to painstakingly put together a 1:72 scale replica of the Titanic which has just taken pride of place at the Titanic The Exhibition at the Entertainment Quarter in Sydney.

The exhibition has been extended to December 15.

THE FILM | With Kate Winslet and Leonardo di Caprio, 1997. Picture: 20th Century Fox Films

THE FILM | With Kate Winslet and Leonardo di Caprio, 1997. Picture: 20th Century Fox Films

Mr Dohnt, who works at British Aerospace near Holsworthy, created the replica of the passenger liner after customising 3D-printing technology and combining his knowledge of naval history with his imagination.

“For as long as I can remember I've always wanted to build a model of the Titanic," he said. “I'm not so good with my hands but I'm confident with my skills in design and robotics.

RMS Titanic

RMS Titanic

“It was a matter of experimenting with designs and starting with basic line drawings to create the contours of the hull." 

Using blueprints of the ill-fated ship, Mr Dohnt spent almost two years printing out and painting more than 3000 parts that were needed to build the replica. It exceeded his expectations.

"The scale of the model was reasonably substantial at four metres long and weighing 200kg. I built it in my living room – luckily I was single at the time. I moved house when it was 80 per cent completed and we had to remove the windows to get it out."

I built it in my living room – luckily I was single at the time. I moved house when it was 80 per cent done and we had to remove the windows to get it out.

Much to his delight, the finished model was so authentic – “insanely accurate” – that it not only stayed afloat but, when tested, sank as eerily and unceremoniously as RMS Titanic in 1912.

“As soon as the model was completed I launched it on water, powered up the motors and found it did better than the real thing.

A TITANIC EFFORT | Bernie Dohnt (right) with his model.

A TITANIC EFFORT | Bernie Dohnt (right) with his model.

“I was able to learn a lot about the performance of the original ship and get an understanding of how the apparently unsinkable Titanic may have met its fate.

“I discovered that the ship's rudder only works under power. In other words, if the rudder's hard over and there's no power on the propellers, the ship still moves through the water."

He believes that when RMS Titanic was approaching the iceberg, the crew put the rudder over while the ship was going full-steam ahead.

“They started to turn but the protocol then was to put the propellers to full stop. If the actual Titanic responded in the same way as the model I built, it explains why the vessel hit the iceberg. Although the rudder was hard over, it only works under power, so the ship kept coasting straight ahead."

Mr Dohnt's model-making finesse and boyish passion has given Titanic The Exhibition a crowning jewel in what is a stately and thrilling voyage of discovery, said the exhibitors.

The exhibition features more than 300 artefacts taken directly from the pre-sinking Titanic and the almost identical sister ship Olympic.

If the actual Titanic responded in the same way as my model, it explains why the vessel hit the iceberg. Although the rudder was hard over, it only works under power so the ship kept coasting straight ahead.

Original props and set pieces from James Cameron's 1997 film Titanic,starring Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet, are also on show.

The exhibition, which opened at Moore Park earlier this year, is one of more than 30 exhibitions and museum attractions currently being produced worldwide by Imagine Exhibitions. But there's something enduringly magical and moving about Titanic that continues to seduce Imagine boss Tom Zaller.

A TITANIC EFFORT | Bernie Dohnt 's model on display.

A TITANIC EFFORT | Bernie Dohnt 's model on display.

“There's something very special about the Titanic exhibition,” he said. “It's an immersive storytelling experience that arouses a great sense of wonder. Through education, literature and films we’ve come to know a lot about the ship but it's not as though you can easily go see it at the bottom of the ocean." 

Nevertheless, Mr Zaller was given the chance to do just that in 2000, an adventure and quest he found almost indescribable "Powerful and moving," he said. “And not for the faint of heart.”

Making of Titanic The Exhibition

In order to see the resting place of Titanic at the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean, Mr Zaller had to dive 3800 metres. The expedition took 12 hours, including two hours down to the wreck, eight hours viewing the ship and two hours to return to the surface. The experience, he said, was inspirational.

“There’s no doubt I have an emotional attachment to the Titanic and it's wonderful to be able to present this exhibition in Sydney.”

For Mr Dohnt the future means ever-more ambitious boat-building dreams. “I’m now planning to create an even larger replica of the Titanic. It will be 16.5m long and built to a scale of 1:24. I intend to make it out of steel and for it to be powered by steam engines. I know I can do it.”

And will it accommodate passengers? “I aim to be inside to steer the replica when we launch. There'll also be space for someone in the back to ensure everything runs smoothly, that the boilers don't pop . . . and that we don't hit any rocks.”

Through education, literature and films we’ve come to know a lot about the ship but it's not as though you can easily go see it at the bottom of the ocean.

Tom Zaller, chief executive, Imagine Exhibitions
  • Titanic The Exhibition tickets, details here.