Texas A&M researchers to freeze-dry French shipwreck La Belle
Researchers from the Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation at Texas A&M are receiving notoriety for their innovative idea for preserving the French sailing ship La Belle. The Texas A&M team will place the ship, which sank more than 300 years ago, in an enormous freeze-dryer to remove moisture from its timbers. The researchers will then rebuild the ship and prepare it for residency in an Austin museum.
More than three centuries ago, a French explorer's ship sank in the Gulf of Mexico, taking with it France's hopes of colonizing a vast piece of the New World – modern-day Texas.
Like La Salle in 1685, researchers at Texas A&M University are in uncharted waters as they try to reconstruct his vessel with a gigantic freeze-dryer, the first undertaking of its size.
By placing the ship – La Belle – in a constant environment of up to 60 degrees below zero, more than 300 years of moisture will be safely removed from hundreds of European oak and pine timbers and planks. The freeze-dryer, located at the old Bryan Air Force base several miles northwest of College Station, is 40 feet long and 8 feet wide – the biggest such machine on the continent devoted to archaeology.