The remains of a ship belonging to the famed French explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier Sieur de la Salle, which sank off the Texas coast more than three centuries ago, began their final journey Thursday at a museum.
It is the last stop in a voyage that began in 1685 with La Salle's ill-fated expedition to find the mouth of the Mississippi River.
The keel and other large structural pieces of the ship La Belle, which have been preserved in a gigantic freeze-dryer at Texas A&M University since 2012, were gingerly loaded onto a truck for the trip to the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.
The supply ship was built in 1684 and sank two years later during a storm in the Gulf of Mexico's Matagorda Bay, the first in a series of events that dashed France's hopes of colonizing a piece of the New World now known as Texas.
"It's part of Texas and Texas history," said Peter Fix, assistant director of the university's Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation.
Texas Historical Commission archaeologists found the shipwreck in 1995 in murky water, built a dam around the site and pumped it dry.
Researchers dug through mud to retrieve the nearly intact hull and some 700,000 items, including three cases of rifles, plus other guns, swords, a cannon and ammunition, and beads and mirrors intended for trade and tool chests containing hammers and saws.
Archaeologists also found a skeleton, believed to be the remains of a crew member or settler among the 40 or so people aboard.