Deep Floors
Among the largest timbers on a ship are the so-called "deep floors" found in the bow and stern. These timbers must come from large old trees, which are often specially grown to achieve the correct shape. Several of the Belle's deep floors consisted unusually of more than one piece. Since large timbers were always scarce, and Rochefort lay in the heart of an active shipbuilding region, this fact supports other information that the forests nearby had been depleted, forcing ship carpenters to be creative in their use of available wood. The average age of the trees used in the Belle's deep floors was 100 years at the time of their felling. One of the deep floors originated in a tree cut more than a century earlier, thus its useful life spanned 200 years. The great age of these trees prior to initial cutting also hints at a profound commitment to shipbuilding in the region. Few among us today, for example, would likely plant a forest with the view that our grandchildren would use its trees for building.

Deep floor timbers Workers remove a deep floor from the stern during the ship's disassembly in 1997.

Photo: courtesy of the Texas Historical Commission.