The Los Angeles Times has a detailed and informative article about the French ship La Belle, which sank off Texas in 1686 — The End of a 300-Year Journey.
Archeologists discovered the sunken wreck of La Belle, a ship commanded by the famed and tortured French explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, in 1995.
The ship, which sank in 1686 in Matagorda Bay, north of Corpus Christi, became a significant marine archeological find, largely because the bay’s fine silt appears to have entombed La Belle almost immediately after it went down. The silt created a coffin of sorts for the wreck, keeping oxygen out and decay to a minimum, preserving even the items that are typically the first to go, from hemp rope to the oaken hull.
The excavation yielded more than one million artifacts, from bronze cannons artfully inscribed with the crest of King Louis XIV to a brass colander whose holes formed the shape of a delicate flower.