France and US battle over shipwreck found in Great Lakes

By Daniel Nasaw

A ghostly length of timber protruding from the bottom of one of the Great Lakes has become the subject of a legal battle between France, the state of Michigan, and a private team of American explorers who say it is the remains of a French ship that sank more than 300 years ago.

US divers who found the wreck believe it is the Griffin, a ship laden with furs, cannon, muskets and supplies that sank in 1679 in Lake Michigan, on a mission for famed French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle.

They are working with French officials to establish its identity and prove it was on a mission for King Louis XIV. But Michigan says the wreck's location means it belongs to the state.

"An early French ship goes down operating with the permission of the French king. There's a good chance there's skeletal remains inside the vessel," said Steve Libert, who found the timber he believes to be the Griffin's bowsprit. "Do you really think the people of Michigan own those skeletons of early French explorers?"

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The Griffin Great Lakes france Michigan French explorer René-Robert Cavelier Sieur de la Salle