Le Griffon remains elusive

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Photo:  A woodcut of La Salle's Griffon - lost on the great lakes

Archaeologists say that a wooden beam found in Lake Michigan, although not attached to the stern of a sunken vessel, could still be from the 17th century Le Griffon shipwreck.

Le Griffon, which sank in bad weather in 1679, was commanded by French explorer, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, who was stabbed by his mutinous crew, after having failed to find the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The State of Michigan finally granted an excavation permit this month for the site of a 10 and a half foot protruding beam discovered 12 years ago by shipwreck hunter Steve Libert.

Sonar readings had previously indicated that one or more Griffon sized objects lie submerged 20ft down in the mud below the beam. Some thought that the beam was actually attached to the stern of Le Griffon itself.

When commercial divers from the Great Lakes Exploration area, began dredging the area adjacent to the beam, the beam became loose and had to be removed.  But it was not found to be attached to anything.

The search will continue though because previous carbon dating of the beam paid for by Mr Libert put the wood in the right date range 1660-1900 so the wreck could be nearby.

The sinking of Le Griffon delayed France’s goal of starting a colony by the mouth of the Mississippi (later to become New Orleans) by 30 years meaning that Spain and Britain were able to overtake France for expansion in the New World.

The Center for Maritime and Underwater Resource Management in Michigan is overseeing the excavation in conjunction with Mr Libert. France has also staked a legal claim to the wreck because it was King Louis XIV who financed La Salle’s expedition.

More information from www.cmurm.org