Port of Departure
The ship was manned, provisioned, and set sail in August 1684 from the bustling port city of La Rochelle, which was guarded by twin towers that still stand today. When the Belle left France and vanished in the New World, it became the stuff of legend, and its secrets lay buried with it until its disassembly inside a specially built coffer dam in 1997.

La Rochelle towers Detail from "Le Port de la Rochelle," by the 17th-century painter Joseph Vernet. Many of the landmarks, including the stone towers, remain today.

Fougeron Contract of engagement for two years between Cavelier de La Salle and Alain Fougeron, sailor, age 19, of Quimper, in Brittany, "...voluntarily engaged to the Sieur de La Salle, Governor for the King in the country of Louisiana, to serve him or others representing him...." Dated at La Rochelle June 26, 1684.
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Images: (1) Musee De La Marine, Paris; (2) courtesy of John de Bry, Center for Historical Archeology.