I doubt seriously whether any but the squiffiest of my fellow port swillers will remember that a few years ago I wrote about the ill-fated expedition of Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle to the Texas coast in the 1680’s and his attempt to found a colony on Matagorda Bay, an attempt doomed by the loss of his supply ship La BelleWell, I did.

I was prompted to write about the matter in part because of my general fondness for colonial history, but specifically because I had just then stumbled across a website discussing the archeological work being done on the wreck of La Belle, discovering the remarkable coincidence that she had, in fact, gone down very, very close to Pass Cavallo, a piece of water where I cast many a fishing line during my misspent yoot (and where my own boat almost went down once or twice).

I bring all this up because La Belle is back in the nooz.  Apparently, she’s been successfully dug out of the mud at the bottom of the Bay and is now in the process of being freeze-dried, with follow-on plans to rebuild her:

More than three centuries ago, a French explorer’s ship sank in the Gulf of Mexico, taking with it France’s hopes of colonizing a vast piece of the New World — modern-day Texas.

Like La Salle in 1685, researchers at Texas A&M University 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.

Researchers will then rebuild the 54 ½-foot vessel, which will become the centerpiece of the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.

As Sam Gamgee would say, I call that neater than neat.