The keel and other large structural pieces of La Belle, which have been preserved in a gigantic freeze-dryer at
"It's part of
The 54-1/2-foot-long supply ship was built in 1684 and sank two years later during a storm in the
"There are pretty cool things that came out of this wreck," Fix said. "But the key issue is we get to learn and hopefully inspire more discovery."
Archaeologists also found a skeleton, believed to be the remains of a crew member or settler among the 40 or so people aboard.
The mud that covered the hull prevented its destruction by salt water and wood-eating mollusks, worms or bacteria, said
"Wood will outlast iron, as long as it's covered," Hamilton said. "If it didn't get left in the mud, you'd have nothing left."
In the summer of 2012, the ship pieces were taken to the
It's among nearly 400 pieces of wood marked at the wreck site. Breakage during recovery pushed that total to more than 600.
"We have to piece them back together," Fix said. "It's a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle of what was 23,000 pounds of waterlogged wood in the remaining shape of a ship."
The challenge Thursday was to brace the delicate pieces with wood frames and foam, rest them on an aluminum platform and limit any abrasion and flexing during the two-hour-long ride to
The actual reconstruction is to begin this fall and will be completed next May. The entire project, including identification and restoration of artifacts found on the ship, has cost "close to
Maps from that time show he believed the river was closer to
The ship legally remains French property. Under a treaty between the U.S. and
"I can't think of any time they said no to anything," Hamilton said.
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