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1679 shipwreck Lake Michigan: The Griffin may be at bottom of lake, new search

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A 1679 shipwreck in Lake Michigan may have been found this week, much to the delight of state historians and search experts alike. A new examination into a debris field at the bottom of Lake Michigan is being launched, and the remaining pieces of wood and wreckage are thought to belong to the Griffin, a long-lost vessel that was once led by a 17th century explorer from France. News Max describes the details surrounding this incredible discovery this Tuesday, June 24.

Experts on the new search team are confident that the shipwreck they have stumbled upon at the bottom of Lake Michigan is in fact the Griffin, a historic vessel used for expedition purposes. Undersea hunters have been looking for the sunken ship for years, and only recently do they think they have finally uncovered the real thing.

It was Steve Libert, one of the leading hunters in the underwater expedition, who revealed that his crew at long last came across what appeared to be a debris field. The wooded wreckage on the floor of Lake Michigan was only several dozen feet away from the site where the search team salvaged a large wooden slab from the murky depths. Libert’s tentative analysis is that the chunk of timber belonged to the Griffin’s bowsprit, with the debris being the remains of the historic vessel.

The shipwreck itself was once a great vessel commanded by Rene-Robert Cavelier, a ship of Sieur de La Salle. Its initial remnants were first found by the explorers’ team back in 2013, though some experts thought that the wooden slab may have actually been a lost fishing net stake — not a major piece of the bowsprit — instead. Libert, however, is confident in the discovery.

"This is definitely the Griffin — I'm 99.9 percent sure it is," Libert stated. "This is the real deal."

The search area was described to be across a small section of the Lake Michigan floor and scattered with various debris, including wooden planks. Deseret News shares that some other supporting evidence found by the diving crew included pegs, nails, and connective materials that would have been used to fasten the hull to the bulk of the 17th century vessel. According to the press release on the 1679 shipwreck Lake Michigan:

“Libert acknowledged his dive team had found no ‘smoking gun’ [concrete proof] such as a cannon or other historic artifacts with markings identifying them as belonging to the Griffin. However, the rusted nails and other implements appeared similar to those from La Belle, another of La Salle's ships that sank near the Gulf of Mexico.”

The shipwreck hunter noted that he now awaits legal permits to excavate the entire area of the lake floor by the end of the year. So far, other experts are encouraged and hopeful that this discovery may indeed be that of the sunken ship, but they said more examination needs to be completed before any confirmations can be made.

"The wooden remains that have been observed could correspond to a wreck," one official acknowledged.

Although the debris field and artifacts within could date back to the 1679 Griffin, it’s also possible that the underwater remains could be from a sunken vessel from the 1800s instead. Ceramic shards and other explicit ties to the 17th century would help provide a greater sense of proof that this is indeed the watery grave of the French explorer craft. A new search is hopeful to yield even more promising results.

"We are always interested in participating to assess the site," finished the expert, adding that both the U.S. and France would need to approve any new involvement in the excavation attempt before proceeding, which includes both American and foreign civil officers of the French government.

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