Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Ships: La Belle Reborn
La Belle remained elusive to archaeologists until 1995, when she was found and painstakingly extracted from the muddy bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. According to this article over at Telegraph UK online, La Belle is ready to be reborn.
The hull and many artifacts - including the skeleton of one settler or sailor - were carefully removed from the Gulf. La Belle's hull was significantly in tact, and the archaeologists at Texas A & M University devised a way to preserve it in polyethylene glycol. As the Telegraph article notes, the cost of this chemical rose substantially with the cost of oil, so another preserving method needed to be found. The scientists finally hit on freeze-drying, and La Belle was packed away in "the biggest [freeze-drying] machine on the continent devoted to archaeology." (You can see a video of the process at this previous post).
Now that La Belle's hull is thoroughly and safely preserved, the plan is to rebuild the 54 foot, early frigate-type ship. She will then become the centerpiece of the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.
As Jim Busheth of the Texas Historical Commission comments in the article:
When La Belle sank, that doomed La Salle's colony and opened up the door for Spain to come in and occupy Texas. People can see firsthand how history can turn on a dime.
The article does not give time frames as to the estimated completion of the project. For anyone interested in the seafaring history of Europe and the New World, however, La Belle reborn is certainly something to look forward to with eager anticipation.
Header: Painting of La Belle via Gulf Wrecks where you can see many of the artifacts from the ship