By Steve Zucker - Charlevoix Courier
With a few pen strokes Monday, Charlevoix resident Steve Libert moved one big step closer to finding out if a shipwreck he found at the bottom of Lake Michigan in 2001 is in fact the long lost French vessel the Griffon.
Sitting in the Charlevoix City Council Chambers and in the presence of a few family members, and Charlevoix Mayor Norman “Boogie” Carlson Jr., Libert signed documents formalizing a deal between his organization, the State of Michigan and the French government granting Libert permission to continue exploring the shipwreck site.
In 2001 Libert, president of Great Lakes Exploration Group, found a shipwreck on the bottom of northern Lake Michigan that he believes is the Griffon — the first European vessel to sail the upper Great Lakes.
Built by the legendary French explorer, Rene-Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, the Griffon was intended to carry out lucrative fur-trading commerce which would support La Salle’s expedition in search of the mouth of the Mississippi.
According to Libert’s Website, on Sept. 18, 1679, on its return maiden voyage the Griffon, loaded with 6,000 pounds of furs, sailed out from present day Washington Harbor on Washington Island in northern Lake Michigan in and was never seen again.
In the years since his find, Libert has been engaged in a protracted legal battle with the state over ownership of the vessel.
He said the deal he signed Monday marks a major milestone in his 28-year quest to find the Griffon. Libert said the agreement permits his organization to continue in its efforts to verify the identity of the shipwreck.