Archaeologists in Texas are pioneering a new method of shipwreck preservation – freeze drying the ship’s wooden planks to remove seawater and then re-assembling them. Traditional conservation techniques often involve time consuming electrolysis immersion to remove concretions or prevent wooden items from decaying when exposed to the atmosphere. If successful, the technique could be a significant breakthrough in the preservation of wooden artifacts raised from the deep. According to the Associated Press, the same technique will soon be used to preserve the Newport Medieval Ship which was discovered in 2002 in Wales.
The Texas project, a French ship named La Belle, sank in 1685 and was re-discovered in 1995 by archaeologists from the Texas Historical Commission. La Belle was lost in a storm while en route to resupply the French explorer Robert La Salle in his quest to establish a colony on the Gulf coast. More than 700,000 items were salvaged during its recovery and the ship has remained immersed in a chemical solution since its recovery. For more information on the ship and its history, see today’s AP article and the Texas Historical Commission’s website.