Like La Salle in 1685, researchers at Texas A&M are in uncharted waters as they try to reconstruct his vessel with a gigantic freeze-dryer, the first undertaking of its size.
By placing the ship — La Belle — 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. The freeze-dryer, located at the old Bryan Air Force base several miles northwest of College Station, is 40 feet long and 8 feet wide — the biggest such machine on the continent devoted to archaeology.
I was trying to figure out how that would work when the lightbulb went off: Like the way ice cubes sublimate away in the freezer. Interestingly, it’s special-purpose built for archaeology.