Monday, July 21, 2014

La Belle

Move over, wishful Le Griffon: a bona fide Cavelier de la Salle shipwreck is in the news!  

La Belle was part of the explorer's fleet as he sailed to the Gulf of Mexico on an ill-fated search for the mouth of the Mississippi in 1685.  The ship sank in Matagorda Bay the following year, and was famously rediscovered and diligently investigated by the Texas Historical Commission between 1995 and 1997.  An astounding 700,000 artefacts were recovered.  The bottom third of the wooden hull, having been well preserved by the mud on the sea floor, was painstakingly raised and over the last several years has been stabilized in a giant freeze drier on the Riverside Campus of Texas A&M University. 

A scale model reconstruction of La Belle
(cover of Jean Boudriot's excellent
monograph on the subject). 

Reassemby of the ship was scheduled to begin in October of last year at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, but the stabilization process took somewhat longer than expected.  La Belle was in the news last week because some of its largest portions were finally loaded onto an eighteen-wheeler and transported from the Riverside Campus to the Bullock Museum.  Reassembly is set to begin this fall and should be completed around May of next year.  This October 25th, the museum will in fact launch a new exhibition, La Belle: The Ship That Changed History, which will feature the public reconstruction of the hull besides the usual artifacts, maps and pictures of the excavation and conservation.  A dramatic trailer?  Check:

The Miami Herald and always delightful History Blog offer up additional details.


1 comment:

  1. I regret having missed the chance to see part of the exhibit last October. I wanted to attend the Center for French Colonial Research's annual meeting, but couldn't afford it. Still on my bucket list, though!