Conservation Research Laboratory Reports
Conserving the hull of the Belle
La Salle Shipwreck Project
Texas Historical Commission
Throughout each year, the Conservation Research Laboratory conserves material from a number of different archaeological projects. The purpose of these CRL reports is to showcase the conservation procedures used to treat some of the more interesting archaeological material. The reconstruction of the Belle's hull is presented in this report. The Belle, one of the ships of French explorer Robert Cavelier, Sieur (Lord) de La Salle, was lost in Matagorda Bay, Texas in 1686. It was excavated by the Texas Historical Commission.
View the completed reconstruction of La Belle here.
Ship Hull Conservation
The excavation of the Belle by the Texas Historical Commission in 1996/97 was one of the most innovative and spectacular archaeological excavations of the decade. The THC took an underwater site and made it a land (more or less) excavation by constructing a cofferdam around the ship and pumping out the water. The finds on this fully loaded barque longue (frigate) belonging to the famous French explorer La Salle were nothing less than amazing. There is a massive array and quanity of material.
The single largest artifact is the remains of the ship herself. It is estimated that approximately one-third of the ship survived. The remains of the ship were dissassembled in the field, and some 764 components (keel, keelson, frames, ceiling planking, mast step, pump box, outer planking, etc.) were sent to the Conservation Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University for conservation. Because of the importance of this shipwreck, we are making equally innovating approaches in the conservation of the hull.
The complete conservation of the hull is being documented on this web site. It is proceeding in several stages:
- STAGE 1: Proper storage and cleaning of the wood in preparation for reassembly
- STAGE 2: Construction of the concrete vat by C.F. Jordan Construction of College Station, Texas
- STAGE 3: Construction of the lifting frame by Dynacon of Bryan, Texas
- STAGE 4: Vat construction completed. The vat was viewed by all interested parties at an Open House on November 12, 1999. Reassembly of the hull completed in October 2001.
- STAGE 5: The conservation of the hull begins. This is where we are now!
- STAGE 6: When the conservation of the hull is completed, it will be removed for final preparation for exhibition.
- STAGE 7: The preserved hull will be partially disassembled and shipped to a museum where it will be displayed.
Photo Gallery Index
Stage 1 - Planning
Stage 2 - Vat Construction
Stage 3 - Lifting the Frame Construction
Stage 4 - Reassembling the Hull of La Belle
Stage 5 - Conserving the Hull of La Belle.
Donny L. Hamilton
1998, Conservation of the Hull of the Belle, Conservation Research Laboratory Research Report #7, World Wide Web, URL, http://nautarch.tamu.edu/CRL/Report7/hull.htm, Nautical Archaeology Program, Texas A&M University; La Salle Shipwreck Project, Texas
Historical Commission, Austin, Texas.
This site is maintained by the staff of the Nautical Archaeology Program (firstname.lastname@example.org). The contents of this site - text, images, and data - are intended for personal information only. Downloading of information or graphic images contained herein for private use is not discouraged; however, written permission from the Nautical Archaeology Program is required for the publication of any material. Any use of this material should credit the Nautical Archaeology Program, Texas A&M University. For additional details, contact Donny L. Hamilton (email@example.com). For prices for publishing rights to photographs and video from the Conservation Research Laboratory and the Port Royal Project, click here. All La Salle shipwreck images and data contained within this web site are copyrighted ©1999 Texas Historical Commission. You are free to use information or non-copyrighted images from these pages for any non-commercial purpose. Any use of this information should credit the Texas Historical Commission.
Last updated: Monday, 10-Oct-2011 18:53:03 CDT