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Conservation Research Laboratory Reports

Conserving the hull of the Belle

La Salle Shipwreck Project
Texas Historical Commission


PHOTO GALLERY 1: MAY 1997 - AUGUST 1, 1998

The first order of business was to store the hull components until the timbers could be cleaned and documentated. The Belle was stored in a 'sea of vats' on the edge of a World War II runway in front of the Conservation Research Laboratory - Projects Facility.  The laboratory occupies the former firehouse of the Bryan Air Force Base.  The base is now a research facility of Texas A&M University called Riverside Campus.

   

The component parts of the hull of the Belle are stored in a 'sea of vats' on the edge of the runway in front of the Conservation Research Laboratory - Projects Facility at Riverside Campus, Texas A&M University. 

The component parts of the hull of the Belle are stored in a 'sea of vats' on the edge of the runway in front of the Conservation Research Laboratory - Projects Facility at Riverside Campus, Texas A&M University. 

component pieces of the ship's hull


The 381 component pieces of the ship's hull are kept immersed in water in a variety of storage vats, including two large vats donated by BFI, Inc.  If the pieces of the hull are not kept wet, they will eventually warp and crack.

The vats are uncovered for this photograph.

Conservator Peter Hitchcock

Conservator Peter Hitchcock uses a Chicago Pneumatic Air Scribe® to remove concretion, iron bolt fragments, and the remains of wood trunnels from a frame. Cleaning is required before the hull can be reassembled. 

location of the new wood conservation vat

This area beside the Conservation Research Laboratory- Projects Facility will be the location of the new wood conservation vat.  When the concrete vat is completed, the hull of the Belle will be reassembled in it before starting the conservation.

Plan view of the wood conservation vat under construction

Plan view of the wood conservation vat under construction.  Note the remains of the Belle, with the bow at the top, are placed to scale inside the vat. This is how the ship will look once it is reassembled inside the vat.  The hull will sit on a platform supported with a scaffolding system.  The platform will be able to be lifted up and down so that work can be done on the hull more easily.

AutoCAD drawing

The AutoCad® drawing to the left is just schematic and does not show the actual architectural details.  It does, however, show the basic features, such as the frame in the vat that is attached to four motorized gear boxes that will lift the assembled ship up out of the solution. This will greatly facilitate the reconstruction and will allow us to monitor and document the preservation process once it gets underway. 

Chemical storage tanks

Chemical storage tanks donated by Loeb Construction.  These will be mounted in the back of the wood conservation vat to hold the chemicals that will be used in treatment. 

 


Citation Information:

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.

E-mail: dlhamilton@tamu.edu
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