A&M Ships off Centuries-Old Ship to Austin

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BRYAN, Texas - Preservation experts at Texas A&M University have spent more than a decade on one of their latest projects. On Thursday, it was time to say goodbye.

The French trading ship La Belle ran aground in Matagorda Bay more than three centuries ago. It would remain in that watery, muddy grave until 1995 when it was excavated. Since then, a team of preservation experts at the Riverside campus have been painstakingly restoring what's left of the old ship.

The ship's keel and other parts were packed up and shipped out on Thursday to the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, where it will remain on permanent public display.

Lab manager Jim Jobling said the most rewarding part of the project is knowing who worked on it.

"This was done by graduate students," said Jobling. "Yes, I was the project manager, but graduate students took the lead, and they were getting their PhDs and Masters degrees and have grown."

Graduate students like Karen Martindale, who restored much of the ship's weaponry.

"I would love to work in a museum someday, and part of that job is to do reconstructions, and to help the public interpret it," said Martindale. "So it's been a fantastic experience."

Project manager Peter Fix said it's a little sad to see the ship go, but good to know it will serve the public.

"People can come see, and hopefully inspire further discovery about the history of Texas and their own history. That's what's exciting to me," said Fix.

The restoration project is a joint effort by the Texas Historical Commission, the Bullock Museum
and Texas A&M.