BRYAN, Texas - Researchers at Texas A&M University are sailing into uncharted waters as they seek to reconstruct a 17th century ship with help from a gigantic freeze-dryer.
The ship — La Belle — was a supply vessel used by French explorer La Salle. It was built in 1684 and sank in the Gulf of Mexico two years later, taking with it France's hopes of colonizing modern-day Texas.
By placing the ship 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.
Researchers will then rebuild the 54 1/2-foot vessel, which will become the centerpiece of the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.