Commercial fisherman Larry Barbeau’s comings and goings usually don’t create much of a stir in this wind-swept Lake Michigan outpost, but in the past few days, his phone jangles the minute he arrives home.
Barbeau’s 46-foot boat is the offshore nerve center for an expedition seeking the underwater grave of the Griffin, the first ship of European design to traverse the upper Great Lakes.
Built on orders of legendary French explorer Rene Robert Cavelier de la Salle, it ventured from Niagara Falls to Lake Michigan’s Green Bay but disappeared during its return in 1679.
Divers this weekend opened a pit at the base of a wooden beam that juts nearly 11 feet from the lake bottom, believing it could be a section of the vessel, the rest presumably entombed in mud.
They picked up the pace Monday with more powerful equipment after a weekend of probing showed that whatever is buried is deeper than sonar readings indicated.
U.S. and French experts insist it is too early to say whether there’s a shipwreck — let alone the Griffin. But anticipation is building at the prospect of solving a maritime puzzle that’s more than three centuries old.
“After we get done for the day, everybody calls or comes to the house and they’re like, ‘What did you find ? What did you see ?
Can you tell me anything ?’ “ Barbeau said in a Sunday interview aboard his ship, the Viking, which holds crucial expedition equipment, including “umbilical” cables that supply oxygen to divers. “People are really interested and they’re excited to see what it is.”