A man who hunts for shipwrecks believes he has found the wreck of the Griffin, the first boat of European design to sail on Lake Michigan. The Griffin went down with six men on board during its maiden voyage in 1679, according to Fox News on June 24.
The Griffin was commanded by a French explorer, Rene-Robert Cavelier Sieur de La Salle of the 17th century, a man famous for exploring the Great Lakes. La Salle had disembarked from the ship near the mouth of Wisconsin's Green Bay. The ship went on with six crew and disappeared.
Today a man who searches for shipwrecks believes that what is left of the 1679 ship, the Griffin, is found in the debris spread over the area of a football field at the bottom of Lake Michigan. He claims he is 99.9% positive that this is what he has found, but others in the scientific world need more evidence before leaping into confirming that the final resting place of the Griffin has been revealed.
This debris field was found in about 50 feet of water and to Steve Libert, who is the shipwreck searcher to find these debris along with his crew, this looks promising. What Libert believes to be the Griffin's wreck was found about 120 feet away from where a wooden slab protruding out of the water was removed last year by another group of explorers.
That group believed that the one lone piece of timber they found was part of the bowsprit of Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle's ship the Griffin. Scientists were not as positive as the explorers, some even claimed it was nothing more than a fishing net stake that had been long-since abandoned.
While Libert claims he is 99.9% sure that they've found the wreck of the Griffin, others are no so sure. Some scientist involved in the findings still want to see more items to identify the wreck.
Timbers and nails from that era are not enough and Libert does acknowledge that he hasn't found anything along the lines of a "smoking gun" that scientists would want to see before confirming the identity of the wreck. Although he hasn't found it, that doesn't mean there isn't a "smoking gun" among the debris at the bottom of Lake Michigan.
Experts are looking to the explorers to bring in pottery shards, a cannon, an anchor or anything that would have come out of a boat in the 17th century to help in identifying the wreck as the Griffin, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
What Libert believes he has found is the hardware, which is all made of wood and used to build ships of that era. He found treenails with wedges and some square nails that have some similarities to other shipwrecks of that day and age.
Images of what Libert's crew found have been sent to French underwater archaeologists who took part in a search last year for the ship and found that lone slab of wood. These archaeologists did confirm the similarities in the wooden hardware of that day.
They also confirmed the similarities of the wooden nails from the wooden timber they took out of Lake Michigan last year believing it is a piece of the bowsprit of the Griffin. This was found in the same area that Libert is exploring, which is just off the shore of the tiny island called Poverty Island in Lake Michigan.
What Libert found this month in his latest expedition is planks laying across the bottom of the lake, which he believes is the scattered bow of the Griffin. He also found nails and pegs that would have fastened the vessel's hull along with parts of what he believes to be the ship's mast.
Where do they go from here? Libert has to get the U.S. and the French government to approve any new involvement in the project before they can continue. So far Michigan's State archaeologist, Dean Anderson, has not been notified of Libert's find. Anderson was one of the scientists who supported the theory that the timber found last year was part of a fishing net and not the Griffin.
It seems as if there is only one sure way to know that it is indeed the Griffin in its watery grave. That would be to go back down and explore, which is what Libert is looking to do next. If the evidence is convincing enough that the U.S. and French government then hopefully these two countries will give him and his team the green flag.