Divers Continue Search for Missing 17th Century Ship in Lake Michigan [Video]

Will the 'Le Griffon' mystery finally be solved?

By MarEx 2013-06-19 13:06:00

Commercial divers and French archaeologists are still trying to solve the mystery of "Le Griffon".

Marine archaeologists have located an ancient wooden beam at the bottom of Lake Michigan, a critical find in the Griffon expedition. However, no declaration regarding an actual shipwreck find has been made.

The wood seems to be a bowsprit, which is a pole that extends from a vessel's stem. It also seems to be attached to another structure below the lake bed, according to experts.

The timber was actually discovered about 12 years ago, but state and federal permits to investigate beneath the surface were just attained.

Another key development this week occurred. A probing device reportedly detected a hard surface about 20 feet below the lake bed; it could be a ship's hull or deck.

The excavation permits expire Friday, although the exploration group could seek extensions.

If the Griffin is found, it will belong to France because it was operating under authority of King Louis XIV. The French government would attempt to recover the vessel, which would be a very costly excavation.

Archaeologists remain hopeful that the wreckage could be in surprisingly good condition after being encased in cold mud for over 300 years. It was not exposed to oxygen, which causes deterioration.

Le Griffon was built by Rene-Robert Sieur de La Salle, one of the first French explorers of the Great Lakes Region. He would later claim the Mississippi River watershed for France, a vast expanse of land that extended from the Allegheny Mountains to the Rocky Mountains and North of the Great Lakes, a portion of which became what is presently known as the Louisiana Purchase. La Salle’s agent and attorney, Claude Bernou, in summarizing La Salle’s letters, wrote, “They set sail on the 18th of September with a light and very favorable wind from the West. It has not been possible to ascertain since what course they steered.” Le Griffon was never seen again.