The restoration of the La Belle took 17 years in all. “Voracious” undersea worms did most of the damage to the ship, Fix said, by burrowing through the ship’s timbers. Archaeologists had to heave fragile, waterlogged wood out of the Gulf, transport it in tanks to labs, and then carefully preserve it.
Mistakes could shrivel and distort the shipwreck, reducing it to as much as 30% of its size. Conservators had to clear out water after hundreds of years sitting soggy under several feet of mud. To do so they used a gigantic freeze drying machine, taking timbers down to -40C (-40F) and then vacuuming out the sublimated water.
“Just like freezer-burning meat in your refrigerator,” Fix said. Then they had to scrub about 8,000ft of timber with hand brushes and chisels, to clear it of coraline growths.
Story: Alan Yuhas, The Guardian | Photo: AP