6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Research on suspected shipwreck in Lake Michigan moves ahead

By Peggy Walsh-Sarnecki - Free Press

The effort to confirm whether a suspected shipwreck site in Lake Michigan is the long-lost Griffon, the first European sailing ship on the Great Lakes, just took a step forward.

Virginian Steve Libert, who discovered the site that could be the Griffon, has selected the Center for Maritime and Underwater Resource Management from Laingsburg, near Lansing, to do the Phase II archeological work on the site, it was announced today.

CMURM is a nonprofit group specializing in underwater archeology, shipwreck management and education. Their credits include work on the Titanic, and the conservation plan for preserving the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald, Michigan’s most famous shipwreck.

The Griffon disappeared in 1679, carrying furs that were to help finance the expedition of René-Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle. La Salle went on to explore the Mississippi River and much of the future Louisiana Purchase. The ship’s whereabouts have taken on almost iconic status among shipwreck hunters, who often refer to the Griffon as the Holy Grail of Great Lakes wrecks.

This next phase of the research will be non-invasive, using high-resolution sonar scans and advanced bottom profiling to make the site. It also will involve diving on the wreck and identifying artifacts in the hopes of coming up with something like the king of France’s seal on a cannon, for example, that would prove it was the Griffon.

Earlier research, including sonar scans, a magnetometer and bottom profiling of the mysterious site have indicated the site could date to the Griffon’s era, and while they have not proven it’s the Griffon, they have not ruled out the Griffon as the site’s origin.

The early work showed there could be something in the area with acoustic and magnetic signatures that are similar to those of a shipwreck.